SCIENCE

Einstein's personal letters auctioned for more than $420,000

  • FILE - This June, 1954,  file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. Einstein was a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, and that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These and other reflections, including personal opinions on God and politics, are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week. (AP Photo, File)

    FILE - This June, 1954, file photo shows renowned physicist Albert Einstein in Princeton, N.J. Einstein was a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, and that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These and other reflections, including personal opinions on God and politics, are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week. (AP Photo, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • This undated image provided by Profiles in History shows a letter written on September 28, 1949, by legendary physicist Albert Einstein on his idea of God. He's known far and wide for the theory of relativity, for research that helped lead to the development of the atomic bomb and as the most brilliant physicist of the 20th century. Lesser known is that Albert Einstein was also a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy that launched a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These reflections and other personal opinions on God and politics are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week. (Profiles In History via AP)

    This undated image provided by Profiles in History shows a letter written on September 28, 1949, by legendary physicist Albert Einstein on his idea of God. He's known far and wide for the theory of relativity, for research that helped lead to the development of the atomic bomb and as the most brilliant physicist of the 20th century. Lesser known is that Albert Einstein was also a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy that launched a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These reflections and other personal opinions on God and politics are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week. (Profiles In History via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • This undated image provided by Profiles in History shows a letter written by legendary physicist Albert Einstein about his theory on relativity. Einstein was a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, and that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These and other reflections, including personal opinions on God and politics, are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week.(Profiles In History via AP)

    This undated image provided by Profiles in History shows a letter written by legendary physicist Albert Einstein about his theory on relativity. Einstein was a father who worried his son wasn't taking his geometry studies seriously enough, and that he was indebted to a favorite uncle for giving him a toy steam engine when he was a boy, launching a lifelong interest in science. He also believed the infidelity of a friend's spouse was no big deal. These and other reflections, including personal opinions on God and politics, are contained in 27 letters being offered by a private collector at auction this week.(Profiles In History via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A selection of rare and intimate letters from Albert Einstein on everything from God to his son's geometry studies and a little toy steam engine were auctioned Thursday for more than $420,000, far exceeding pre-sale estimates.

The 27 Einstein letters were in both English and German and written longhand and on a typewriter.

Amassed over decades by a private collector, the letters represented one of the largest caches of Einstein's personal writings ever offered for sale.

At the Profiles in History auction, they brought in a total of $420,625, including $62,500 paid for Einstein's letter to his son discussing the connection between his theory of relativity and the atomic bomb.

Joseph Maddalena, founder of Profiles in History, said, "We all know about what he accomplished, how he changed the world with the theory of relativity. But these letters show the other side of the story. How he advised his children, how he believed in God."

In one letter, Einstein urged one of his sons to get more serious about geometry. In another, he consoled a friend who recently discovered her husband's infidelity. In still another, to an uncle on his 70th birthday, Einstein recalled how the toy steam engine the uncle gave him years ago had prompted a lifelong interest in science.

On the issue of God, Einstein dismissed the widely held belief that he was an atheist.

"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one," he wrote to a man who corresponded with him on the subject twice in the 1940s. "You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. ... I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."

"These are certainly among the most important things I've ever handled," Maddalena said. "This is not like a Babe Ruth autograph or a signed photo of Marilyn Monroe. These are historically significant."

The Associated Press contributed to this report