”As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.”
THE ORIGINAL LETTER SIGNED BY EINSTEIN FEATURING ONE OF HIS MOST FREQUENTLY CITED QUOTATIONS ON THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH.
Written from Princeton, dated 13 February 1934, and addressed to Reinhold Pietsch of New York, the letter reads in full (translated from the original German):
Dear Mr. Pietsch,
I was very pleased with your kind invitation, as well as the fact that you are so concerned with such scientific questions. I shall probably have to go to Europe in the summer, where I have undertaken certain obligations.
As for the search for truth, I know from my own painful searching, with its many blind alleys, how hard it is to take a reliable step, be it ever so small, towards the understanding of that which is truly significant.
My workload does not allow me to get more involved with your investigations. Please continue to enjoy your search.
Kindly and with best thanks to you,
[Signed] A. Einstein.
In February 1934, when this letter was written, Einstein had only recently arrived in the United States. By April 1934, “Einstein announced that he was staying in Princeton indefinitely and assuming full-time status at the Institute. As it turned out [despite his thoughts of going to Europe revealed in the letter], he would never live anywhere else for the remaining twenty-one years of his life” (Isaacson, 433).
The sentiment expressed in this letter is one of Einstein’s most oft-quoted remarks. It was published in Albert Einstein: The Human Side: New Glimpses from His Archives (Princteon University Press, 1979) as “a letter that Einstein wrote on 13 February 1934 to an interested layman with whom he corresponded”. Also published in: Gaither's Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (2008); Thus Spoke Einstein: on Life and Living: Wisdom of Albert Einstein in Context (2011); Mathematicians on Creativity (2014); 10 Quotes: Inspire and Motivate (2004); and many others.
Einstein elsewhere said that his supreme aim in life is the quest for truth, making this letter - revealing his understanding of the painful and slow progress of the quest - particularly poignant.
With original mailing envelope and associated correspondence (from 1975-1976) with the Trustee of the Estate of Albert Einstein regarding providing a copy of this letter for their archives. Princeton: 1934. One 8.5x11 inch sheet (text on one side). Usual folds, otherwise fine.