Hebrew University launches Einstein Archives website


New Yorkers welcome Albert Einstein on arrival in the US in 1921March 20, 2012: The Hebrew University this week launched the updated and expanded Einstein Archives website containing a complete catalogue of more than 80,000 documents in the University’s Einstein Archives. This includes more than 40,000 documents contained in Albert Einstein’s personal papers and over 30,000 additional Einstein and Einstein-related documents discovered, since the 1980s, by the Einstein Archives staff and the editors of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein.

In addition to a press conference held by the University to launch the site, the occasion was simultaneously marked at Princeton University Press (PUP) and the Einstein Papers Project (EPP) at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which have collaborated with the Hebrew University in a long-term project to publish The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein — one of the most ambitious publishing ventures ever undertaken in the documentation of the history of science. Thanks to the these two institutions’ ongoing participation, the enhanced website makes it possible to link each document to its printed and annotated version as it appears in the “Collected Papers,” and to its English translation, (since most of Einstein’s papers were originally written in German). Albert Einstein was a founder of the Hebrew University and one of its most loyal supporters. In his will he bequeathed all of his writings and intellectual heritage to the Hebrew University, including the rights to the use of his image.

The newly launched digitization project is funded by the Polonsky Foundation UK. Through his foundation, Dr. Leonard Polonsky has initiated similar enterprises, such as the digitization of the writings of Sir Isaac Newton at the University of Cambridge, which attracted 29 million hits within the first 24 hours after its launch. “We have every reason to believe that the launch of the expanded Einstein website will attract as much attention as the Newton papers. Clearly, there is a pent-up demand for open access to these intellectual treasures,” said Dr. Polonsky.

The previous site, which was launched in 2003 in conjunction with EPP and PUP, has until now presented 43,000 records of documents and 900 manuscripts in Einstein’s own hand, whose digitization was made possible by a generous contribution from the David and Fela Shapell Family Foundation in Los Angeles, California.

The expanded site will initially feature a visual display of about 2,000 selected documents amounting to 7,000 pages related to Einstein’s scientific work, public activities and private life up to the year 1921. These documents are sorted according to five categories: scientific activity, the Jewish people, the Hebrew University, public activities and private life.

Advanced search technology will enable the display of all related documents by subject, and, in the case of letters, by author and recipient. The first line or title of each document will also be displayed, alongside information on date, provenance and publication history. “In this way the content of the archives can be explored via a new user-friendly interface customized for this goal,” explained project manager Dalia Mendelsson. “This interface provides easy navigation through the life and scientific career of Albert Einstein.”

Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said, "This project relates to different academic disciplines: physics and basic science, the history of science, the history of Zionism and of the Hebrew University. I see great importance in the completion of another stage of the digitization project of the Einstein Archive. The Hebrew University has invested considerable effort to advance this project and is happy to make the world of this great scientist and person accessible to the interested general public."

According to Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, former president of the Hebrew University and the academic head of the Einstein Archive, "The renewed site is another expression of the Hebrew University's intent to share with the entire cultural world this vast intellectual property which has been deposited into its hand by Einstein himself.”

At a press conference to launch the website at the Hebrew University’s Edmond J. Safra Campus in Givat Ram, participants were able to navigate through Einstein’s world and see documents that were not previously accessible to the general public. Participants also toured the Einstein Archive, which holds Einstein’s fully-catalogued private, non-scientific library. With books on philosophy, classical German literature and Judaism, the library reveals the intellectual world of Einstein as a young Jew in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Among them is a book by Walter Rathenau, the Jewish foreign minister of Germany who was murdered in 1922 by members of a right-wing group, containing a handwritten dedication to his friend Albert Einstein.

Source: Dept. Media Relations, Hebrew University