Sale 20BP02 | Lot 35

EINSTEIN, ALBERT Two typed letters signed to Professor Julian Hugo Bonfante, with associated materials.

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps
EINSTEIN, ALBERT  Two typed letters signed to Professor Julian Hugo Bonfante, with associated materials.

Lot Details

Lot 35
EINSTEIN, ALBERT Two typed letters signed to Professor Julian Hugo Bonfante, with associated materials.
An interesting small archive comprising two single-page typed letters in German signed by Einstein, the first on his 112 Mercer Street letterhead dated 29 September 1944; the second on The Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, dated October 15, 1944, both with accompanying envelopes; a folded sheet of paper inscribed "To/Giordano Bruno Bonfante/Albert Einstein/1945" (a family relative, still living); and two small photographs likely of Maja Einstein, Albert Einstein's sister. Usual folds, very slight toning, etc.
Einstein on linguistics and logic. The genesis of this correspondence is supplied in an anecdote by a family member "...My father and I had been discussing the idea that linguistic development, especially the spoken, tends toward consolidation and simplification, because, generally speaking, the innate approach of the human mind-set does so. It is fundamentally, organically, reductive. That's when he told me that when he was at Princeton he remembered writing to Einstein in order to ask him a deceptively plain question: "Is it a fact that when facing rival theorems, the simpler one tends to be the true one?" "And what did Einstein reply?" I asked. Your grandfather smiled and shrugged with good-humored dissatisfaction. "Einstein said yes, that can be right-except under certain conditions, when particular circumstances are in play ... etc. etc. etc."

The first of the two letters here is the invitation for Bonfante to visit Einstein to discuss the matter. In rough translation: "Dear Mr. Bonfante: I will be very happy to hear from you personally about your scientific thinking, but you must be prepared for the fact that my own relationships with logic are more instinctive than they are considered. So you will soon notice that you have no competent assessor before you. If you think it right, you could bring along our mutual friend Oppenheim, who rides a similar hobby horse. I ask you please to arrange an agreed time with Miss Dukas by telephone. With best regards, yours, A. Einstein."
The second letter, presumably written after the visit, is present in draft and carbon/file copies in institutional archives at The Albert Einstein Archives, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This, the received letter, is annotated lightly in pencil by Julian Bonfante. It reads (in translation): October 15, 1944
Dear Mr. Bonfante: I think your theses are essentially correct; I would phrase it like this: A: From two theories, which represent the same complex of phenomena in harmony with the observations, which is based on less logically independent hypotheses (axioms). B. This criterion applies to the general theory of relativity compared to Newton's theory. Note: the weak side of the formulation of A is that the number of axioms is not a sufficiently sharply defined number. They depend to a certain extent on the formulation. I believe that a more precise version of the criterion would be possible, but I do not believe that it has already succeeded. With kind regards, A. Einstein.
This correspondence is of interest not only for the insights it provides into Einstein's thought processes and wide interests, but additionally for his (very germane) references anent the general theory of relativity versus Newtonian physics.


Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Sold for $15,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Sold for $15,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 10am EST