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Figures of light in the early history of relativity (1905-1914)

Walter, Scott A. (2011) Figures of light in the early history of relativity (1905-1914). [Preprint]

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    Abstract

    Albert Einstein's bold assertion of the form-invariance of the equation of a spherical light wave with respect to inertial frames of reference (1905) became, in the space of six years, the preferred foundation of his theory of relativity. Early on, however, Einstein's universal light-sphere invariance was challenged on epistemological grounds by Henri Poincaré, who promoted an alternative demonstration of the foundations of relativity theory based on the notion of a light-ellipsoid. Drawing in part on archival sources, this paper shows how an informal, international group of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers, including Einstein, Poincaré, Hermann Minkowski, Ebenezer Cunningham, Harry Bateman, Otto Berg, Max Laue, A. A. Robb, and Ludwig Silberstein, employed figures of light during the formative years of relativity theory in their discovery of the salient features of the relativistic worldview.


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    Item Type: Preprint
    Additional Information: To appear in David Rowe, ed., Einstein Studies
    Keywords: special theory of relativity, spacetime, conformal invariance
    Subjects: General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
    Specific Sciences > Physics
    Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
    Depositing User: Dr. Scott Walter
    Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2012 11:59
    Last Modified: 04 Jun 2012 11:59
    Item ID: 9134
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/9134

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