BOSTON – A handwritten letter from Albert Einstein in which he writes his famous E = mc2 equation sold at auction for more than $ 1.2 million on Friday, about three times more than expected, said RR Auction, based at Boston.
Archivists at the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem say there are only three other known examples of Einstein writing the equation that changes the world with his own hand.
This fourth example, the only one from a private collection, only recently became public, according to RR Auction, which expected it to sell for around $ 400,000.
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“This is an important letter from both a holographic and physical point of view,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, calling the equation the most famous in the world.
The equation – energy equals mass times the speed of light squared – changed physics by showing that time is not absolute and that mass and energy are equivalent.
The one-page handwritten letter in German to Polish American physicist Ludwik Silberstein is dated October 26, 1946.
Silberstein was a well-known critic and challenger of some of Einstein’s theories.
“You can answer your question from the formula E = mc2, without any scholarship,” Einstein wrote in the letter written on Princeton University letterhead, according to a translation provided by RR Auction.
The letter was part of Silberstein’s personal archives, which were sold by his descendants.
The buyer has been identified by RR only as an anonymous collector of documents.
The letter’s scarcity sparked a bidding war, Livingston said. Five parties were bidding aggressively at first, but once the prize hit around $ 700,000 it turned into a two-man contest, he said.