A McKendree University student may not have been the person to come up with the Theory of Relativity.
But during a trip to the campus library to do some research, O'Fallon senior Steven Sewell discovered a pretty exciting memento from the person who did.
Sewell, who is studying to get a master's degree in education with a science emphasis, was working on a poster about British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington for Adam Tournier's Concepts in Science course. Eddington verified Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity in 1919 when he observed that gravity could bend light during a solar eclipse.
While perusing a copy of Albert Einstein's 1949 book "Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist" he found on the library shelf among all the other books, Sewell noticed it was inscribed "Albert Einstein. 49" on the fly leaf.
"It took me a minute to really take in what I was looking at," Sewell said. "I really didn't expect to see a book this old in general circulation, and when I saw Einstein's signature, my jaw dropped.
"For a split second, I wanted to shove the book in my bag, because I would love to have this book in my own library," Sewell told McKendree library workers. "But then my conscience caught up with me and thought I'd better let the librarian know that this book should be better secured. I read a few pages, found the quote I was looking for, and included it in my sources for my poster. Then I went to Dr. Tournier, who was in the library at the time, and showed him what I found -- no surprise he had a similar reaction -- and we presented the book to the librarian."
Library workers had the book and its signature authenticated. They found it is number 22 in a limited edition of 760 copies printed. The book also has an inscription by the editor that appears on the title page, according to McKendree spokeswoman Lisa Brandon. It is dated March 28, 1955, and reads, "To Dr. Milburn P. Akers, with the deep appreciation and best wishes of Paul A. Schilpp."
According to Brandon, Milburn Akers was president of the Board of Trustees at McKendree in the 1960s and was the great-grandson of McKendree's first president, Peter Akers. Milburn Akers presented the book to the Benson Wood Library in 1957 and that's how it ended up in general circulation, its treasure undiscovered for 55 years.
Brandon said the book was appraised at about $3,000. But it could have been worth much more if it still had its original box, perhaps as much as $15,000.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or 618-239-2626.