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A Historian’s Paradise—Albert Einstein Archives Continue to Grow

By Ryan Wallace staff@sciencetimes.com | Dec 09, 2014 01:22 PM EST

Often referred to in academic circles as the Dead Sea Scrolls of physics, the remaining letters and writings of revered scientist Albert Einstein have been a major feat for archiving since Princeton University Press and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem inherited over 80,000 documents the late physicist wrote in 1986. But in spite of the sheer volume of works he left behind, that could be enough to overwhelm the senses, researchers over the past two decades have dedicated their lives and their careers to telling the true story behind the scientist's brilliant brain.

Having written all of his work mixed in both German and English, Einstein's collective writings are a challenge for any historian alone, but together a team of archivists edited by Cal Tech professor Diana Kormos-Buchwald, The Einstein Papers Project has worked for years bringing together the image of the man behind the theories. The project has already published 13 volumes in print, out of the projected 30 currently in the works, but this week they broke old traditions by making the archives available for the first time to the general public - and it's all online to boot.

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Starting last Friday, Dec. researchers from the universities digitized what was left of Einstein's personal writings publishing them in a new online format called "Digital Einstein".

Visitors to the online archive will come to find an entirely unique view of the scientist, told by the perspective and vantage point of Einstein himself. In diary entries, letters and postcards, readers will be able to engage with Einstein on a whole new level as they uncover the all too human aspects of the sordid details of his life. Once an irresistible playboy, turned borderline mad-scientist of his era, Einstein was a man known for his rebellious nature. And readers will come to find that the 20th century's greatest genius was, when it all boils down, a man looking for adventure and answers to the universe.

"The young Einstein was a Bohemian, not the sage we think of now" NYU historian Matt Stanley says. "He was disrespectful to his professors and skipped classes because he knew he could pass anyway [and] he hung out in beer halls to argue about the nature of space and time."

But the archival documentation doesn't just end there. While most of the 80,000 documents will be available to the general public in both English and German, researchers reveal that a new publication due this coming January will help fans of the famed physicist understand what happened in the years after Einstein turned 44. The 14th volume, expected to contain more than 1,000 additional documents, will boast an even deeper view into the later years of the scientist's life, and will also help better guide the story of his life than the paperwork in the archive could ever do on its own.

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