29 November 2000
EINSTEIN, Albert. Four autograph letters signed ('Papa', one as 'A.E. senior') to Hans Albert Einstein, n.p. [Princeton], [23 April 1945] - [25 August 1947], verso of letter of [23.4.1945] with a letter from Maja Einstein written in margins, letter of [18.2.1946] containing a small sketch of a ball suspended in a water jet, together 6 pages, 4to, envelopes (a few very light stains to letter of 22.12.).
Announcements of the conclusion of a Unified Field Theory. Einstein reports on the progress of his scientific work: in April 1945 he announces the discovery of 'something really important ... I believe it is now at last the unified theory of gravitation and electricity. It is perhaps my last discovery, whose consequences for physics I will no longer be able to elaborate myself'; again in the following February he has finished his unified theory, but 'as simple as the general theory is, once one has it, it is so damnable difficult to calculate anything with it' - Hans Albert will be familiar from his hydrodynamic work with the difficulties of integrating non-linear differential equations: 'mine are a hundred times more damnable, above all because of the large number of field variables'. He reverts to the theme in a letter of August 1947, when he has found 'a workable method of calculation to test whether the electron etc. emerges from the theory'. December 1946 brings positive reports of investigations into a 'rotationally symmetrical field as an explanation of elementary particles', which provide at least the prospect of finding out whether 'singularity-free solutions of the expected variety exist'. Other scientific discussions are on the question of variations in gravity - which Einstein illustrates with reference to the phenomenon of balls sustained in jets of water from fountains - and criticisms of the general theory of relativity by Adolf Gasser. The letters also discuss negotiations with Mileva about the sale of one of her houses, Hans Albert's work in soil conservation, for which Einstein prophesies a great future, and a patent application Hans Albert is making - a process which Einstein regards with great mistrust.
Einstein had been engaged in a fruitless struggle to develop a unified field theory since the early 1920s: a long series of unfailingly enthusiastic announcements of ultimately unworkable solutions over a period of more than twenty years become something of a comic leitmotif of his later scientific career. This group of letters demonstrates the degree of relaxed frankness on scientific matters that Hans Albert's own considerable abilities allowed his father. (4)
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