September 24, 2008

Lost Einstein Telescope Put On Display

After 3 years and $10,000 worth of restoration costs, Albert Einstein's long-lost telescope will be put on display at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution the theorist helped start.

The old reflecting telescope is bulky, but is still powerful enough to see Jupiter's rings and it's five moons.

Einstein received the telescope in 1954, one year before he died, as a gift from a friend named Zvi Gizeri.  Officials at the university believe Gizeri may have made the telescope himself.

Many believed the lost telescope was left to the university because Einstein had also willed his records to the school.  It took university officials a lot of luck and investigating to find it.

The telescope was originally discovered in a storage shed in the late 1990's, but the computer specialist who found it did not recognize it as Einstein's.

The 6 feet long telescope stands on a base believed to be taken from the German army.  The recognizable base, which can be seen in a picture featuring Einstein and the telescope, and Gizeri's signature on a mirror, led biologist Eshel Ophir to speculate that the telescope had been Einstein's.

After searching through archives and photos, Ophir realized that the unceremoniously discovered telescope was indeed Einstein's.

Ophir immediately took the telescope to the Meyerhoff Youth Center on the university's campus to protect and clean it.

The device remains in it's original state, with the exception of a new eyepiece.

It is unlikely that Einstein, a theoretician and Nobel Prize winner, had much use for a telescope.

"I don't think anybody investigated Einstein's star-gazing habits," said Dvora Lang director of the Meyerhoff Youth Center. "But it was for his pleasure, not for his work."

The telescope will go on display this Thursday at the Meyerhoff center.  The event will occur in conjunction with Researchers Day, a celebration where schools across Europe open their laboratories to the public.

The telescope will remain at the Meyerhoff center to be used by students.

Lang hopes the telescope will inspire young Israelis to pursue and learn more about science.

"This is setting them on fire," she said.


Image 2: Albert Einstein with the telescope (Photo: Courtesy of the Albert Einstein Archives)


On the Net: