First journal issue of Einstein’s obituary for Karl Schwarzschild, a pioneer in calculating black holes, 1916


Albert Einstein: Gedächtnisrede auf Karl Schwarzschild [Memorial Lecture on Karl Schwarzschild.] First journal issue. Berlin: 1916.

Albert Einstein: Gedächtnisrede auf Karl Schwarzschild. [Memorial Speech on Karl Schwarzschild.] Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XXXIV (1916). Öffentliche Sitzung am 29. Juni, p. 768-769. Berlin: Verlag der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften (in commission at Georg Reimer [Reichsdruckerei]), 6th July 1916.

Imperial 8vo (26,5:19 cm). 2 pages, numbered 768-769. Letterpress on machine paper, in original publisher’s brochure on orange-coloured stock with black title printing.

First journal issue in the original wrappers, of Einstein's obituary for German astronomer and physicist Karl Schwarzschild, among others a pioneer in astrophysics and in calculating black holes in particular.

Content: "Two months later, on January 16, 1916, Einstein read a paper before the Prussian Academy on behalf of Karl Schwarzschild, who was in the German army at the Russian front at that time. The paper contained the exact solution of the static isotropic gravitational field of a mass point, the first instance of a rigorous solution of Einstein’s full gravitational field equations. On February 24, 1916, Einstein read another paper by Schwarzschild, this one giving the solution for a mass point in the gravitational field of an incompressible fluid sphere. It is there that the Schwarzschild radius is introduced for the first time. On June 29, 1916, Einstein addressed the Prussian Academy to commemorate Schwarzschild, who had died on May 11 after a short illness contracted at the Russian front. He spoke of Schwarzschild’s great talents and contributions both as an experimentalist and a theorist. He also spoke of Schwarzschild’s achievements as director (since 1909) of the astrophysical observatory in Potsdam. He concluded by expressing his conviction that Schwarzschild’s contributions would continue to play a stimulating role in science…" (Pais) Schwarzschild's findings also laid the groundwork for the description of the final stages of gravitational collapse, and the objects known today as black holes.

Condition: Wrappers minimally torn at margins, otherwise very well preserved copy indeed, uncut thus obviously not opened at all.

Rarity: RBH records only 1 other copy of this particular paper at auction (2002, as part of a collection of 114 Einstein offprints deriving from the Harvey Plotnick Library); no copy in trade as of January 2024.

Reference: Boni, N.: A bibliographical checklist and index to the published writings of Albert Einstein, 89; The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume 6, 29; Shields, M. C.: Bibliographie der Schriften Einsteins. In: Schilpp, P. A.: Albert Einstein als Philosoph und Naturforscher, 100; Weil, E.: Albert Einstein. A bibliography of his scientific papers, 1901-1930, 87; Pais, A.: Subtle is the Lord. The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (2005 ed.), p. 256.