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Christie's Albert Einstein

Discover Paul G. Allen’s science and tech collection

Christie's Albert Einstein

Paul G. Allen’s innovative collection traces the history of human ingenuity

Gen One: Innovations from the Paul G. Allen Collection will be on view at Christie’s Rockefeller Center 5–9 September. The live sale, Pushing Boundaries: Ingenuity from The Paul G. Allen Collection, takes place on 10 September. The two online sales, Firsts: The History of Computing from The Paul G. Allen Collection and Over the Horizon: Art of the Future from The Paul G. Allen Collection, will be open for bidding through 12 September.

Mr. Allen’s collecting legacy returns to Christie’s with a selection of objects that changed science and technology forever, including Albert Einstein’s famous letter to President Roosevelt and Ed White’s spacesuit from Project Gemini

‘The possible is constantly being redefined,’ said Paul G. Allen, ‘and I care deeply about helping humanity move forward.’ As the co-founder of Microsoft, Mr. Allen ushered in a new era of technological possibility. His unceasing curiosity extended beyond the realm of computing innovations. As a dedicated philanthropist, accomplished guitarist, ocean explorer and entrepreneur, he sought ways to inspire future innovators and use data and technology to improve our lives.

He was also a passionate collector. Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection made history when it achieved $1.62 billion at Christie’s in November 2022, becoming the most valuable private collection ever to come to auction.

This fall, Christie’s in New York will offer over 150 objects of scientific and historical importance from Gen One: Innovations from the Paul G. Allen Collection. Assembled by a founding father of modern technology, the collection chronicles the history of human ingenuity, from first-generation technologies to interstellar exploration, and will be sold across three sales. As with Visionary, all estate proceeds from Gen One will be dedicated to philanthropy, pursuant to Mr. Allen’s wishes.

‘Looking at the collection as a whole, you’re able to see the building blocks of the most cutting-edge technology that exists today,’ says Devang Thakkar, Global Head of Christie’s Ventures. ‘Whether that’s the smartphone in your pocket that has billions of transistors or the watch on your wrist that you can call someone with. The technologies and discoveries represented in this collection enabled those advances.’

From a historic letter written by Albert Einstein to early mainframe computers, the objects spotlight humanity’s relentless pursuit of new frontiers and were hand-selected by one of the most groundbreaking innovators of our time.

The weight of innovation
In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warning of the possibility of Germany’s ‘construction of extremely powerful bombs’ through nuclear fission. Often cited as one of the most influential letters of the 20th century, it set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to the establishment of the Manhattan Project.

The letter’s inclusion in this collection showcases Mr. Allen’s interest in the pioneers of science and technology who came before him. At the time, Einstein wrote two nearly identical letters. One, which was slightly longer, was delivered to the President. It is now in the permanent collection of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York. The other, composed concurrently and signed by Einstein, will be offered as part of Mr. Allen’s collection.

The famous theoretical physicist is considered one of the most influential scientists of all time. For many, he is the personification of modern science: his theory of relativity transformed our understanding of space and time. The most famous equation of all time, E = mc2, shows that mass is equivalent to energy and is fundamental to explaining how energy is released by atom bombs.

The letter highlights the profound impact of technology on society — its importance as well as its dangers — a reality to which Mr. Allen was highly attuned. Einstein was an outspoken pacifist, and although he influenced the development of the atomic bomb, he would later tell his friend Linus Pauling, ‘I made one great mistake in my life — when I signed a letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made.”

The history of computing
If Einstein paved the way for a new era in physics, Mr. Allen and his collaborators ushered in a new era of computing. Starting with MS-DOS in 1981, Microsoft then went on to revolutionise personal computing with the launch of Windows in 1985. But before Microsoft became one of the most valuable public companies in the world, the seeds were sown on a DEC PDP-10 mainframe computer at Computer Center Corporation (CCC) in Seattle’s University District.

The first version of the PDP was launched in 1959 and the PDP-10 was unveiled in 1966. Prior to accessing the PDP-10 at CCC, Mr. Allen and Mr. Gates were first introduced to programming in BASIC at Lakeside School using a teletype connected to a remote GE-635 timesharing system. A few years later, at Harvard, they wrote the original BASIC for the Altair under simulation on the PDP-10. Altair BASIC became Microsoft's first product.






  • 10.09.2024 - 12.09.2024
    Auktion »
    Christie's London »

    Exhibition
    18 March – 17 May, 10am – 6pm
    Closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and Public Holidays

    Location
    Unit L20C, 20th Floor, Gaysorn Tower
    127 Ratchadamri Road, Lumpini, Patumwan, Bangkok
    10330
     



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  • A DEC PDP-10: KI-1, 1971. Serial Number 676. Estimate: $30,000–50,000. Offered in Firsts: The History of Computing from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    A DEC PDP-10: KI-1, 1971. Serial Number 676. Estimate: $30,000–50,000. Offered in Firsts: The History of Computing from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    Christie's London
  • A DEC PDP-10: KI-1, 1971. Serial Number 676. Estimate: $30,000–50,000. Offered in Firsts: The History of Computing from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    A DEC PDP-10: KI-1, 1971. Serial Number 676. Estimate: $30,000–50,000. Offered in Firsts: The History of Computing from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    Christie's London
  • Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen in 1979
    Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen in 1979
    Christie's London
  • Albert Einstein (1879-1955), A typed letter signed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2 August 1939, with penciled note by Leo Szilard at top: ‘Original, not sent!’ Estimate: $4,000,000– 6,000,000. Offering in Pushing Boundaries: Ingenuity from the Paul G. Allen Collection on 10 September 2024 at Christie's in New York
    Albert Einstein (1879-1955), A typed letter signed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 2 August 1939, with penciled note by Leo Szilard at top: ‘Original, not sent!’ Estimate: $4,000,000– 6,000,000. Offering in Pushing Boundaries: Ingenuity from the Paul G. Allen Collection on 10 September 2024 at Christie's in New York
    Christie's London
  • Chesley Bonestell (1888–1986), Saturn Viewed from Titan, 1952. Oil on board. 18¼ x 23 in (46.4 x 58.4 cm). Estimate:$30,000–50,000. Offered in Over the Horizon: Art of the Future from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    Chesley Bonestell (1888–1986), Saturn Viewed from Titan, 1952. Oil on board. 18¼ x 23 in (46.4 x 58.4 cm). Estimate:$30,000–50,000. Offered in Over the Horizon: Art of the Future from the Paul G. Allen Collection from 23 August–12 September at Christie’s Online
    Christie's London