About fifty pages scribbled with calculations, erasures, short texts. This may seem trivial, but not only are they from the hand of Albert Einstein, but it is the working equations that made it possible to develop the famous theory of relativity. This Tuesday, November 23, Christie’s Paris is auctioning this exceptional manuscript. The auction house estimates it between 2 and 3 million euros. But given the rarity of the object, the price could soar.
Albert Einstein and Michele Besso, an unwavering friendship
Albert Einstein had a close friend, the Swiss physicist Michele Besso, who helped the genius both with his research and in his private life. These pages were written by the two scientists between June 1913 and the beginning of 1914. That is to say a few months before the publication of the theory of relativity.
Only 2 manuscripts remain
Einstein threw away anything that wasn’t useful. Besso kept what he could in memory. Many letters between the two friends have thus reached us. Einstein’s working manuscripts, on the other hand, are rare, especially from this key period: there are only two known today, including the one on sale.
“This manuscript is exciting and moving, because we have very few drafts of Einstein, who used to throw away everything that looked like drafts, explains Etienne Klein, physicist and philosopher of science. And then it is fascinating because it sheds new light on the way in which a new theory of gravitation was set up, The Theory of General Relativity, which Einstein published in 1915. “
This famous theory “will change the way of understanding the structure of the universe, continues Etienne Klein. Gravitation is no longer a force which develops in space, it is a deformation of the geometry of space-time. . “
The last steps before revolutionizing science
In fact this manuscript is a test: in order to verify his theory, Einstein and Besso put it into practice to “explain” the abnormal movement of Mercury’s orbit, the precession of the periapsis. Now in these pages, Einstein is mistaken about the value of the mass of the sun. What makes the whole wrong.
“It is a fundamental intellectual work which was in the draft, which contained errors, adds Etienne Klein. But errors are part of scientific creation. A scientist is someone who is wrong. ‘reports on it. “
Equations still in use
A few months later, at the end of 1915, Einstein solves, thanks to his theory, the mystery of the precession of Mercury. A historic moment.
The pages on sale Tuesday mark the last stages before this revolution. “This shows the trial and error of what will become a cosmic sesame, continues Etienne Klein. We must remember that even today, when we do cosmology, when we study the mergers of black holes, gravitational waves. ., we use Einstein’s equations. ” And that’s what makes the sale great. In all relativity, of course.