Feynman memorabilia for auction, including his Nobel Prize! (Also, Darwiniana and Einstein’s palm print)

This is sad, and I’m not sure why Richard Feynman’s papers and even his Nobel Prize medal are up for auction rather than going to a museum or an archive (does the family need money?). But if you want some Feynmania, Sotheby’s auction house can accommodate you. You have to have a lot of dosh, of course. The auction site is below, and I’ll put up some selected items with their estimates. (The sale, by the way, started at 10 a.m. eastern time in New York, and you can watch live by going to the site):

There’s a lot more, too.

A cool million for the Prize medal!

Some other cool stuff. You want an Enigma machine?

Anything about Einstein with his signature is worth a ton! Especially his BIBLE!

 

And over here, you can even get Einstein’s handprint! Why isn’t this worth more than his autograph?

Finally, maybe some rich reader would like to give me a Christmas present:

 

h/t: Amy

29 Comments

  1. Ken Pidcock
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    This is sad, and I’m not sure why Richard Feynman’s papers and even his Nobel Prize medal are up for auction rather than going to a museum or an archive (does the family need money?).

    Not necessarily. This stuff has real value, and that means that, in our current economy, it should be in the hands of those wealthy enough to afford it. Then maybe they’ll have it put in a museum or archive. How else would we ever know of their public-spirited generosity?

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      A lot of this stuff won’t make its way into museums or archives, I think.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I suspect Mr. Pidcock is parodying bourgeois noblesse oblige.

      • Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        I think you are right. As I understand it, stuff that is auctioned off mostly goes to rich people’s personal collections. It is sad really. Some, of course, give the items to museums in their will or loan them to museums.

  2. BJ
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Damn it. I wish I was super-mega-rich enough to buy Einstein’s autographed manuscript. Or the Enigma machine.

    • David Coxill
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      It is a mystery to me why anyone would want a Enigma machine ,hahaha .
      I wonder how many were brought back home by allied troops and are sitting gathering dust in attics and basements?

      • Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        The Enigma system was still used by our rivals (if not enemies) after the war, so the machines were scooped up by allied intelligence services, and the codebreaking successes of Bletchley Park were kept a deep, dark secret for 30 years. Therefore surviving machines are exceedingly rare.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          To spell out more clearly what you hint at : the British government in particular (and maybe the American government too) sold or gave the machines to a number of colonial governments as they were setting up for independence, without letting them know that the system was hopelessly broken – “pwned” in the modern parlance. So for several decades after the war it was necessary for the secrecy of the Bletchley codebeaking to be maintained, because significant diplomatic traffic was still being “protected” by Enigma.
          Perfidious Albion – well, we learned it from the French. Who got it from the Holy Roman Empire… it’s perfidious turtles all the way down.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 2, 2018 at 4:18 am | Permalink

            What I find most extraordinary was that the secret was successfully kept for 30 years.

            Read any history of the war written before 1975 (e.g. Churchill’s blockbuster account) and it is full of references to “intelligence sources”. Re-reading it with hindsight most of those obscure references were, quite obviously, Enigma intercepts.

            cr

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted December 4, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

              Hmmm, a lot of those 30 years of Enigma secrecy had books (later films) high in the best seller charts about debonair, womanizing, martini-shaking spies “burgling and bugging their way across the world” (to misquote one MIx agent) … which books were written by an MIx agent.
              So … accidental diversionary tactic, or deliberate?

        • David Coxill
          Posted December 1, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          A few years ago didn’t one turn up on a market stall ,or a junk shop ?

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        My understanding is that almost all of them were destroyed in the face of Allied advances.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          That would be the SOP, certainly.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        I see what you did there! 🙂

      • BJ
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        I’m puzzled as to why you find this to be so perplexing 🙂

        • David Coxill
          Posted December 1, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Riddle me that.

  3. keith
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I’ll take one of each, please. Send the bill to Jerry Coyne, professor ceiling cat, emeritus.

  4. alexandra Moffat
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I rather hate seeing anything to do with Feynman up for auction – somehow seems disrespectful… maybe some billionaire will buy it and donate to a museum.

    • veroxitatis
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      “some billionaire” — Trump?!? Seriously however, is this not one for some organ of Government. I would like to think that were Hawking’s acadaemic papers to go on sale the UK Government would step in to purchase on behalf of the Nation as has been done many times so far as art works are concerned.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted November 30, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        Isn’t Gates a billionaire?

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          Gates is a billionaire. While I’ve loathed his software and business practices for decades, even I have to admit that by concentrating his philanthropy on disease management (how many people do you know who have died of malaria? how much money do you think is worth spending on it?) he’s doing something more productive than buying things to hang on a wall with a label saying “Donated by …”

  5. lkr
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I’m surprised the topless bar menu is so costly — I thought Feynman had tons of them. So I gather the calculations weren’t just how to split the tips!

    • Posted November 30, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      The technical notes often contain the vector (36 24 36).

  6. veroxitatis
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine succeeding to a Nobel Prize Medal and not establishing a trust whereunder it may be handed down through the generations with a final destination to a named or appropriate museum in the event of no close relatives (as defined) remaining in existence.

  7. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I gather that these things were in the possession of his descendants. Indeed, I can only surmise a dire need of cash to sell off the memorabilia of what possibly is the only Great in that family.
    Tim Urban (of ‘The Oatmeal’) succeeded in convincing Elon Musk to finance a Tesla Museum in Tesla’s old workplace.
    Let us hope that same happens for Feynman.

  8. carpevita
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I’d rather have Feynman’s topless bar place mat than his Nobel Prize. Feynman rather disdained the pomp and circumstance of the prize.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      I bet there is a story about how the tambourine came into association with the man himself, and what sort of provenance is there to validate the association. Knowing Feynman’s reputation, the story is in full Technicolour, and probably NSFW.

  9. Steve Gerrard
    Posted November 30, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I do believe, after close examination, that the lines and creases of my left hand follow much the same pattern as those shown for Albert Einstein. I shall go to bed tonight much pleased by this discovery.

  10. Jackson
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this post!


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