Item #149 Zur einheitlichen Feldtheorie [On the Unified Field Theory]. WITH: Typed Letter Signed [TLS]. ALBERT EINSTEIN.
Zur einheitlichen Feldtheorie [On the Unified Field Theory]. WITH: Typed Letter Signed [TLS]
Zur einheitlichen Feldtheorie [On the Unified Field Theory]. WITH: Typed Letter Signed [TLS]

Zur einheitlichen Feldtheorie [On the Unified Field Theory]. WITH: Typed Letter Signed [TLS]


First edition, offprint issue, signed by Einstein, of one of his most important papers on unified field theory, with an accompanying typed letter signed to Reginald B. Haselden, who was Curator of Manuscripts at the Huntington Library during Einstein’s time at the California Institute of Technology, where he spent the winter terms of 1931, 1932 and 1933 as visiting professor.

On January 30, 1929, Einstein published what was the most highly anticipated paper of his career, On the Unified Field Theory. During the preceding month, newspapers around the world promoted it as his most ambitious work. Its publication caused a sensation. Einstein had supposedly done the impossible, uniting the two pillars of modern physics: general relativity and quantum theory. The publication was a world-wide event, discussed and debated by scientists, philosophers, theologians, and even the general public.

Before this paper was published, Einstein wrote a revealing letter to his good friend Michele Besso, dated January 5, 1929. In it, he remarked upon the completion of his theory.

As translated it reads, in part:

[T]he very best thing, on which I have worked for days and half the nights, speculating and making calculations, is now completed and lying in front of me, compressed into seven pages with the title ‘Unified Field Theory.’ It looks antiquated, and the dear colleagues, including you, my dear, will initially stick their tongues out as far as possible. After all, these equations do not contain Planck’s constant h. But once they have clearly reached the performance limit of the statistics craze, people will remorsefully return to the time-space concept, and then these equations will constitute a point of departure.”

Excitement about the paper’s implications—both Einstein’s and the public’s—was premature. The theory as published was soon disproven. Despite this setback, Einstein continued searching for the rest of his life for a theory that would unify general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Signed by Einstein on the front wrapper: ‘Albert Einstein, Pasadena 22.1.31’.

The accompanying letter to Haselden (who was almost certainly the recipient of this offprint) reads:

"Ich danke ihnen sehr für die entzückende Aufmerksamkeit. Das Männchen ist ein strahlendes Vorbild für geruhsame Lebensweise, dem ich gerne folgen möchte."

[Thank you very much for your delightful attention.The male is a shining example of a peaceful way of life, which I would like to follow.]

It is not clear to whom, or what, Einstein is referring (the term ‘Männchen’ often refers to a small male animal, rather than a person).

Offprint from Sitzungsberichte der Preussichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XXII, 1929. Berlin: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1929. Large 8vo (265 x 187mm), pp. 8. Original printed wrappers (creased and wrinkled, likely from mailing folds). Without the printed statement ‘Uberreicht vom Verfasser’, indicating that this is a commercially available reprint rather than an author’s presentation offprint. Letter: 1 page, on letterhead of the California Institute of Technology (279 x 215mm). Together two items, handsomely boxed.

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