Friday, 18 March 2011

For Einstein’s Birthday, Hebrew U. Unveils Online Archive of Physicist’s Work


WIRED CAMPUS March 18, 2011, 12:09 pm

Jerusalem—To mark Israel’s National Science Day on March 14, which by no coincidence is also Einstein’s birthday, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced that his entire archive of 80,000 documents held as a bequest by the university will be digitized and put online, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Polonsky Foundation of London.

“Our goal is to build a user-friendly, inclusive digital database,” said Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of Hebrew University and a professor of history.

The project will make the full archive accessible for students and researchers everywhere, as well as ensure its preservation for future generations.

Einstein’s papers were originally housed at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he was appointed to a professorship in 1933 after fleeing Nazi Germany and remained until his death in 1955. Einstein was among the founders of Hebrew University and left his entire archive to the university in his will.

The Einstein archives are considered one of the most significant resources in the world for the history of modern physics. They contain many of his original scientific manuscripts and Einstein’s personal correspondence to and from family and friends, as well as writings on political and other matters during his lifetime.

The digitization project is expected to be completed in about one year, when it will be readily accessible on the Albert Einstein Archives Web site.

“This project unites the Hebrew University Library with digitization projects of the Polonsky Foundation recently launched at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library,” said Leonard Polonsky, executive chairman of Hansard Global PLC and head of the foundation that is backing the digitization.

Since 2003, the Einstein Archives Online has allowed viewing and browsing of 3,000 digitized images of 900 documents selected from Einstein’s writings, together with a Finding Aid allowing access to descriptions of the entire repository of Einstein papers at the university.

An archival database has allowed direct access to approximately 43,000 records of Einstein-related documents, but not to their content. Until now, Internet users have been only been able to access images of Einstein’s handwritten manuscripts. Facsimiles of correspondence, typewritten manuscripts, photos, and audio material have not been available online.

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