Physics Centennial #5: Einstein in Yiddish

This is the 5th post in a series celebrating the centennial of the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Einstein, General Relativity (Yiddish, 1921).One unlikely work of Einstein is a Yiddish translation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published in 1921. This little book is pertinent to recent discussions by historians of 20th-century physics about the nature of “Jewish physics” in the Third Reich, the relations between proponents of Yiddish and Zionism, and the role of Einstein as a leader of East European Jewry in the years before and after World War II. For example, in a recent article, Roland Gruschka explores the implications of a 1927 Yiddish translation of Einstein (“Tuvia Shalit’s Di spetsyele relativitets-teorye of 1927 and Other Introductions to the Theory of Relativity in Yiddish,” Science in Context, vol. 20, 2007, pp. 317-339).

This earlier, 1921 edition is a translation of Albert Einstein, Uber die spezielle und allgemeine Relativitatstheorie (Gemeinverstandlisch), Braunschweig: Vieweg, 1917. Scholars may view this work in the Collections or in the Online Galleries.

This Yiddish edition of Einstein illustrates why we collect not only first editions, but also subsequent editions and translations that enable scholars to track the changes in scientific texts over time and to explore the translation of ideas into new cultural contexts. For the same reasons, the Collections also hold a Yiddish translation of Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, published in New York in 1926.

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Kerry Magruder, Curator; and JoAnn Palmeri, Librarian
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