Lot 242
  • 242


30,000 - 50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • A page of manuscript calculations, by one the the world's most renowned thinkers
1 page (8 3/8 x 11 in.; 213 x 280 mm). Manuscript calculations in ink on paper. [With]: 1 page (3 1/2 x 5 3/4 in.; 89 x 146 mm). Ruled paper from spiral-bound notebook, signed ("A. Einstein") in black ink.  


Einstein, Albert. "On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation". Scientific American. 1950, CLXXXII (4): pp. 13–17

Catalogue Note

Original field equations in Einstein's hand — a remarkable unpublished manuscript by one of the world's most renowned physicists  Following his original and groundbreaking research on general relativity, Einstein attempted to generalize his theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism as another aspect of a single entity. In 1950, he described his "unified field theory" in a Scientific American article titled "On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation". 

The present field theory calculation involves a potential term Phi, and a possible wave function Psi. It is plausible that the E and B terms (which make up the potential Phi) represent the electric and magnetic fields. In some instances E and B appear to be vectors, as they have only one subscript, but in others they appear to have two subscripts, suggesting that they are tensors and thus not the usual E and B field vectors. The calculation is conducted in cylindrical polar coordinates, as suggested by the repeated use of rho and z subscripts, where rho is defined in terms of an r, hence r and z coordinates are present with the radial coordinate r dominating the calculation. This manuscript could represent a classical calculation involving electromagnetic fields only (which could constitute lecture notes, or a smaller research project), or a unified field theory calculation (which forms a part of some larger theory or project). 

As Einstein focused on his unified field theory, he became increasingly isolated, and in his pursuit ignored some developments in more mainstream physics. In turn, mainstream physics largely ignored Einstein's approaches to unification. Though Einstein's efforts to generalize his geometric theory of gravitation were ultimately unsuccessful, his dream of unifying other laws of physics with gravity remains a driving force particular with regard to string theory, unified quantum-mechanical setting, and the modern quests for a theory of everything.

Sotheby's would like to thank Prof. Diana K. Buchwald and Prof. Daniel J. Kennefick of Caltech for their assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.