rare Einstein offprint
EINSTEIN, ALBERT.. “Physikalischer Grundlagen einer Gravitationstheorie” [and] MARCEL GROSSMANN. “Mathematische Begriffsbildungen zur Gravitationstheorie.” Offprint from Vierteljahrsschrift der Naturforschenden Gesellchaft in Zürich
pp. (i), 284-297. Original wrappers. Near fine.
FIRST EDITION, the rare offprint with “Überreicht von den Verfassern.” printed on the front wrapper. In 1912 Einstein moved back to Zürich from Prague. Aware of the analogy between Gauss’s surface theory and the space-time Einstein was introducing in his new theory of gravitation, he wished to find a four-dimensional version of Gauss’s theory. Einstein recalled,
“With this problem in mind, I visited my old student friend Marcel Grossmann, who in the meantime had become Professor of Mathematics at the Swiss Polytechnic. He caught fire immediately, even though as a true mathematician he took a somewhat skeptical attitude to physics. … [H]e was indeed quite ready to collaborate on the problem with me, but with the limitation that he would take no responsibility for any claims and interpretations of a physical nature. He reviewed the literature and soon discovered that the mathematical problem had already been solved, in particular by Riemann, Ricci and Levi-Cività” (Einstein, 1955). Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and Tullio Levi-Cività had developed a useful formalism, the absolute differential calculus (tensor calculus), which Einstein and Grossmann adopted.
On 9 September 1913 the two presented their first lectures on this subject. These were published in the same year in the Vierteljahrsschrift der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zürich, vol. 58, under the titles: “Physikalische Grundlagen einer Gravitationstheorie” (pp. 284–290) and “Mathematische Begriffsbildungen zur Gravitationstheorie” (pp. 291–297). This is the rare author’s presentation offprint of that joint publication.
“Their joint paper of 1913 came much nearer to the theory of gravity for which Einstein was still groping. He was dissatisfied with the paper, for its equations appeared to show that instead of a single solution to any particular set of gravitations circumstances there was an infinitude of solutions. Einstein believed ‘that they were not comparable with experience’. This, together with the conclusions that the results would not agree with the principle of causality, led him to believe that the theory was untenable. Yet the 1913 paper contained the clue to its own apparent discrepancy: what appeared to be an infinitely large number of solutions to one problem was really a single solution applicable to each of an infinitely large number of different frames of reference. Thus the cards of the General Theory of Relativity had been laid fact upwards on the table in 1913” (Alicke).
In 1914 Einstein moved to Berlin and continued to work alone on general relativity until its definitive formulation at the end of 1915. Einstein praised Grossmann’s contribution in his principal work on general relativity (1916): “Grossmann supported me through his help, not only in sparing me the study of the relevant mathematical literature, but also in the search for the gravitational field equations.” Weil 57.