Einstein's manuscripts digitized

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently announced that it is digitizing more than 80,000 manuscripts by Albert Einstein and making them publicly available via its Einstein Archives Online site. According to this FOX News article:

The portal now offers a close look at an initial 2,000 documents, or 7,000 pages total, from Einstein's personal and public life up to the year 1921. In the coming years, archivists will slowly upload the remainder of the collection.

As someone who has long been interested in making great works of literature and science available online for free (I've helped make literally hundreds of works available through Project Gutenberg, mostly in participation with the Distributed Proofreaders project), this development has me downright giddy. Even knowing that I will never be able to read most of it, and I'll probably be unable to understand much of the part accessible to me, I am thrilled simply knowing that whoever has the time, inclination and capability to read the thoughts of this absolutely incredible man can do so.

I say this knowing that, beyond the realm of science, I disagree with many of Einstein's thoughts. His social, economic and political views ranged from egalitarian to New-World-Order-ish. Nevertheless, where his ideas may have been faulty — and in some cases, astonishingly simplistic — his expression of them was frequently beautiful and concise. Take this passage from a short essay briefly titled "Science and Civilization":

We are concerned not merely with the technical problem of securing and maintaining peace, but also with the important task of education and enlightenment. If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom we must keep clearly before us what is at stake, and what we owe to that freedom which our ancestors have won for us after hard struggles.

Without such freedom there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Faraday, no Pasteur and no Lister. There would be no comfortable houses for the mass of the people, no railway, no wireless, no protection against epidemics, no cheap books, no culture and no enjoyment of art for all. There would be no machines to relieve the people from the arduous labor needed for the production of the essential necessities of life. Most people would lead a dull life of slavery just as under the ancient despotisms of Asia. It is only men who are free, who create the inventions and intellectual works which to us moderns make life worth while.

Here's hoping many more gems like this will be found among his manuscripts.


Thank you for visiting my site. I am Curtis Weyant — a writer, musician and thinker of deep thoughts in the tradition of estimable personages such as Jack Handy and the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.

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