August 20, 2005

Original Einstein Manuscript Discovered

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- The original manuscript of a paper Albert Einstein published in 1925 has been found in the archives of Leiden University's Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics, scholars said Saturday.

The German-language manuscript is titled "Quantum theory of the monatomic ideal gas," and is dated December 1924. Considered one of Einstein's last great breakthroughs, it was published in the proceedings of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in January, 1925.

High-resolution photographs of the 16-page manuscript and an account of its discovery were posted on the institute's Web site.

"It was quite exciting" when a student working on his master's thesis uncovered the delicate manuscript written in Einstein's distinctive scrawl, said professor Carlo Beenakker. "You can even see Einstein's fingerprints in some places, and it's full of notes and markups from his editor."

"We're going to keep it as a reminder of his visits here, which is quite a fond memory for us."

Einstein, the Jewish-born physicist whose name is now synonymous with genius, taught in Berlin between 1914 and 1933, fleeing to the United States after Hitler came to power.

He was a frequent guest lecturer at Leiden in the 1920s due to his friendship with physicist Paul Ehrenfest, among whose papers the manuscript was found.

The paper predicted that at temperatures near absolute zero - around 273 degrees below zero Celsius or around 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit - particles in a gas can reach a state of such low energy that they clump together in one larger "mono-atom."

The idea was developed in collaboration with Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose and the then-theoretical state of matter was dubbed a Bose-Einstein condensation.

In 1995, University of Colorado at Boulder scientists Eric Cornell and Carl Wiemann created such a condensation using a gas of the element rubidium and were awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 2001, together with Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Professor Beenakker said the student who found the manuscript, Rowdy Boeyink, was painstakingly reviewing documents in the archive for a thesis on Ehrenfest when he came across the Einstein manuscript and immediately recognized its importance.

He said Boeyink had found other interesting documents during his search, including a letter from Danish physicist Niels Bohr, and was all but certain to receive top marks on his thesis.

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