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EINSTEIN, Albert (1879-1955). Autograph letter signed (‘A. Einstein’) to Walter Leich, n.p., 24 April 1950.
EINSTEIN, Albert (1879-1955). Autograph letter signed (‘A. Einstein’) to Walter Leich, n.p., 24 April 1950.
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EINSTEIN, Albert (1879-1955). Autograph letter signed (‘A. Einstein’) to Walter Leich, n.p., 24 April 1950.

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EINSTEIN, Albert (1879-1955). Autograph letter signed (‘A. Einstein’) to Walter Leich, n.p., 24 April 1950.

In German. One page, 281 x 215mm, the date typed, envelope. [With] portrait photographs, c.1898-99, depicting Leich and professors Geiser, Hurwitz and Fiedler of the Zurich Polytechnic; also an English translation, and a transcription and translation of Leich’s letter to Einstein.

'I was ... inwardly rebellious against everything that seemed non-essential': a significant autobiographical text, reflecting on his university days at the Zurich Polytechnic and explaining his outlook and conception of himself. Leich had written to Einstein with memories of their years studying together at the Zurich Polytechnic, and Einstein responds with his own memories of Leich, ‘wiry, lean, sparing of words, serious and matter of fact’. For Einstein himself, the Polytechnic is not a good memory, as ‘it brought compulsory overfeeding as it seemed to me. The reason must have been that I was slow in thinking and inwardly rebellious against everything that seemed non-essential’. Einstein does not however blame his teachers, whom he mentions in turn: ‘I esteemed Weber highly … I owe more to [Geiser] than to the others. Hurwitz was too formal for me … Minkowski was hard to follow for me as I often did not see what was the essence of the matter’. He expresses particular pleasure that Leich went on to a ‘practical occupation’, as Einstein himself had in his seven years at the Swiss Patent Office. The letter concludes with a remarkable and revealing assessment of Einstein’s outlook on life, his motivations and his achievement over his lifetime: ‘I have never sought meaning and purpose in our life apart from the endeavour to be useful or at least bearable to one’s fellows. The non-human world has always been to me what the church is to a Catholic, something higher and mysterious. I was never pleased that it was bound up with material existence, but that was unavoidable if I wanted to have enough leisure to think. So I have had much time and, it is true, accomplished little, but I think some of it can endure’.

Einstein studied at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich between 1896 and 1900. Leich was a fellow-student between 1896 and 1898, before (according to his letter) departing for America to enter his father’s wholesale drug business. Einstein's statement about Minkowski is of particular interest, given the importance Minkowski's 4-dimensional space-time would later assume in the construction of Einstein theory of relativity.
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