Albert Einstein was on a boat when he found out that he won the Nobel Prize. He and his wife Elsa were on their way to China when a telegraph arrived on the ship with the news. Word spread, and by the time Einstein disembarked from the ship in Shanghai on Nov. 13, 1922, the wild-haired physicist was greeted by throngs of fans.
Nearly 100 years later, that Nobel Prize medal is going on display at a new Einstein exhibition opening this weekend in Shanghai.
In addition to the medal, the special show also features more than 120 other pieces of Einstein memorabilia – including his birth certificate and an honorary doctorate he received from Harvard University. Parts of Einstein’s record collection – featuring classical music from Bach and Mozart – will be piped in on speakers. And perhaps most important, pages that were handwritten by Einstein in 1915 that contain the general theory of relativity and the famous “E=mc2” equation will be available for all to see.
A team of curators and conservators from the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have spent the past week in China carefully ensuring that the items arrived safe and were set up correctly. Avi Muller, who does extensive work with the Einstein Archives, traveled from Israel to help set up the exhibition. “Throughout Einstein’s 1922 trip to Asia, he was greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds,” Muller told From The Grapevine. “In a way, our journey is an homage to that trip. It’s like an echo in time.”
In addition to Asia-specific items related to Einstein, Muller has also brought some other interesting finds that he dug up. For instance, the books from Einstein’s personal library now reside at the archives. While sifting through one, Muller discovered a matchbook that Einstein had placed inside to use as a makeshift bookmark. In another, he found singed pages likely due to stray embers from Einstein’s pipe. “We have a lot of goodies,” Muller said.
“The scope of the exhibition is huge,” Muller told us by phone, while construction workers hammered behind him to put up the finishing touches. “I believe this is going to be an amazing event.”
Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, the former president of Hebrew University and the academic director of the Einstein Archives, will be on hand for the exhibition’s opening to deliver a talk on why Einstein is still so relevant in modern times. “Einstein’s face is the most recognizable face worldwide,” said Gutfreund. “The interest in Einstein does not fade into history. If anything, if one can say anything about this, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It’s greater now.”
It’s been a busy year for the archives, which celebrated Einstein’s 140th birthday in March. That event coincided with the release of 110 never-before-seen Einstein documents, acquired from a collector in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In April, the first-ever photograph of a black hole was unveiled, confirming one of Einstein’s most famous suppositions. “It is proof that Einstein is right again in a very slam dunk kind of way,” Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said at the time. “It’s a mic drop for Einstein’s theory of general relativity.”
The new exhibition, called “Einstein: Life in Four Dimensions,” will remain open at the World Expo Museum in Shanghai until late October.
PHOTO 4- Exhibition planner Avi Muller poses outside the Shanghai exhibit shortly before it opens to the public.