From Aeon by Andrew Robinson author of Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity
In late 2017, a sheet of paper bearing a 13-word sentence in German in the original handwriting of Albert Einstein went on sale at an auction house in Jerusalem. The city is home to the archives of Einstein, which he willed before his death in 1955 to the Hebrew University, the institution that he helped to found in the 1920s. The Albert Einstein Archives now contain some 30,000 documents. Several times the size of Galileo Galilei’s and Isaac Newton’s archives, they rival the archives of Napoleon Bonaparte. However, the provenance of this particular paper had nothing to do with the Archives, despite a copy of it being held in the collection. It was decidedly more intriguing.
The paper was inscribed and autographed in Japan on the stationery of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and dated November 1922, the month in which Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. He stayed at this hotel during his massively popular lecture tour of Japan, when he attracted even more attention than the Japanese imperial family. Apparently somewhat embarrassed by such frenetic publicity, Einstein decided to record some of his thoughts and feelings about life in writing. He gave this particular sentence (and another shorter one) to a Japanese delivery courier, either because the courier refused to accept a tip, in keeping with local practice, or because Einstein had no small change. ‘Maybe if you’re lucky those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip,’ Einstein apparently told the unnamed Japanese courier, according to the document’s seller, reported by the BBC to be the courier’s nephew….
Translated into English, Einstein’s sentence reads: ‘A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.’
Categories: History of Culture