Published On: Sun, Apr 2nd, 2017

Albert Einstein Letter on Relativity to Iowa High School Teacher Sells for $53,503.75



A lengthy personal letter written by the most famous Jew of the 20th Century Albert Einstein and enhanced with hand drawings sold tonight for $53,503.75 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions last week.

On September 3, 1953, Einstein wrote the letter to Arthur L. Converse, a teacher from Malcolm, Iowa (population 287). The letter accompanies a two-page questionnaire, which Converse asked Einstein to complete. It is clear to the reader, Einstein was interested in Converse’s questions and generous in his considerate response, which included hand drawings. The letter and the two-page questionnaire are included in the lot being auctioned.

The letter, which is signed by Albert Einstein and typed on Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study letterhead reads in part, “There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers…[Einstein then draws Earth and the atmosphere, referring to it for clarification] The electric potential p rises linearly with the distance h from the surface of the earth…For all your experiments the following question is relevant: How big is the electric charge produced on a conductor which is situated in a certain height h, this body being connected with the earth…”

Albert Einstein Letter on Relativity to Iowa High School Teacher

The questionnaire includes Einstein’s handwritten drawings, comments and answers to the questions. Interestingly, Einstein seemed to disagree with question #8 in the questionnaire. He responded to Converse by providing a diagram and mathematical equation along with a “?” to try to aid understanding. For question #10, Einstein stated that Converse’s question was not clear along with a question mark, a diagram with the notation “charge of elektroscope increased proportional to h.”

The lot also comes with Albert Einstein ’s original mailing envelope from “Room 115” of the Institute for Advanced Study.” The envelope was postmarked September 7, 1953 from Princeton, New Jersey.

The letter is consigned by Arthur Converse’s family and is new to the auction market.

Commenting on the letter, auction owner Nate Sanders stated, “These documents provide a rare glimpse into Einstein’s generous nature and willingness to help teachers better understand and communicate his theories.”

Bidding for the Albert Einstein letter began at $15,000.

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