A letter sent from Albert Einstein to an Iowa high school teacher sold at auction Thursday for $53,503.75.
Einstein penned the letter in 1953 in reply to a two-page questionnaire submitted by Arthur Converse, a teacher from Malcolm, Iowa, concerning electrostatic theory and special relativity.
The scientist returned the questionnaire along with his typed responses as well as handwritten notes and diagrams explaining his answers.
“There is no difficulty to explain your present experiment on the basis of the usual electrostatic theory. One has only to assume that there is a difference of potential between the body of the earth and higher layers of the atmosphere, the earth being negative relatively to those higher layers,” Einstein’s wrote on Princeton Institute for Advanced Study letterhead.
Converse’s family kept the letter for decades before agreeing to put it up for auction this week, along with the original envelope it was received in, postmarked September 7, 1953 from Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein died less than two years later there at the age of 76.
Bidding began at $15,000, and the correspondence ultimately fetched more than triple that figure before the auction concluded Thursday.
“It is clear to the reader [that] Einstein was interested in Converse’s questions and generous in his considerate response,” auction owner Nate Sanders said in a statement. “These documents provide a rare glimpse into Einstein’s generous nature and willingness to help teachers better understand and communicate his theories.”