The Only Known Photo of Einstein Blackboarding E=MC2

10. 18. 15 by Jolene Creighton

Albert Einstein is one of the smartest human beings who ever lived. He was responsible for unifying mass and energy with his famous E=mc^2 equation. This equation is considered by many to be the world’s most famous formula (even if people don’t know precisely what it means).

To explain, in physics, mass–energy equivalence essentially means that mass and energy are the same thing (every mass has an energy equivalent and vice versa). And in order to express this idea, we use E=mc^2.

Uncovering the Image

Einstein offered a series of public lectures throughout his career. At one lecture, which was given in Pittsburgh in 1934, Einstein mathematically derived his mass-energy equivalence equation (aka E=mc^2). What you see above is an image taken at this lecture.

It is believed to be the only remaining photo that shows Einstein working on this derivation.


The photo was found by David Topper and Dwight Vincent of the University of Winnipeg. They revealed the image back in 2007, after they uncovered it in a halftone newspaper.

The equation can be seen in the right blackboard in the lower left-hand corner. As you can tell, the image is rather blurry and hard to see. So many of you may need to save the image and zoom in on your computer in order to really see the formula.

Notably, the equation says ΔE0=Δm and E0=m instead of the expected E=mc2. However, before anyone voices concern, it is still the same, just in a slightly different form. Topper and Vincent explain:

“Its format may disappoint or confuse the average viewer, because from the start of the lecture Einstein employed the convention of setting the speed of light c to unity. Hence a close look at the lower left section of the right blackboard in [the picture] reveals the relation ΔE0=Δm, and below it is E0=m. As far as we know, [this photo] is the only extant picture with Einstein and his famous equation.”


However, despite the fame of this equation, Relativity is actually Einstein’s greatest contribution to the sciences. Indeed, this theory is one of the main cornerstones of modern science. To that end, if you were to disprove relativity tomorrow, our entire infrastructure—everything about our current understanding of the physics of our universe—would collapse around itself.

Science would be set back an age.

Fortunately for science (and for scientists), it is extremely unlikely that this will happen. Relativity is one of the most tested scientific theories of all time, and it is has passed all these tests flawlessly.

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