There is no royal road to science and only those who do not dread of its fatiguing climb have a chance of gaining its luminuos summits.
-Karl Marx

May 3, 2013

Who developed the Theory of Relativity?

There are many claims by scientists and science historians that Special Theory of Relativity was developed by Poincare and Lorentz and not by Einstein. Last century it was Whittaker who disliked Einstein and emphasized Poincare and Lorentz role in developing special theory of relativity.
    C. K. Raju's blog claims that Einstein copied from Poincare and Hilbert. His blog is full of moral appeals and personal attacks on Einstein. He claims Special theory of relativity and General theory of relativity were not developed by Einstein. This is a paragraph from Smilga's book "Relativity and Man" which focuses on exactly the same point and highlights why Einstein and not Poincare or Lorentz, developed Special Theory of Relativity. Through this debate we will also like to explian what is Theory of relativity with a philosophical viewpoint. 

"The theory of relativity was developed by Einstein, and not Poincare (An interesting fact: Poincare's paper went to press only three weeks after Einstein's.) or Lorentz, for the sole reason that Einstein proved more capable of getting down to the essence of the matter. This reply resolves the problem completely. To tell the truth, however, the widespread notion that Poincare and .Lorentz were practically at the verge of formulating the relativity theory is simply wrong. Any physical theory is first and foremost determined not by its mathematical props but by its physical content. It is true that Lorentz, and especially Poincare, came close to a mathematical formulation of the theory, but they failed to grasp its physical aspects. It was this last step that was most difficult, and it is hopeless to speculate how long it would have taken Poincare to arrive at Einstein's ideas.

   Einstein's paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies appeared in the seventeenth volume of Annalen der Physick, a sedate German scientific journal, in 1905. We need not go into the content of this work. An excellent description of it is given by Leopold Infeld: "The title sounds modest, yet as we read it we notice almost immediately that it is different from other papers. There are no references; no authorities are quoted, and the few footnotes are of an explanatory character. The style is simple, and a great part of this article can be followed without advanced technical knowledge. But its full understanding requires a maturity of mind and taste that is more rare and precious than pedantic knowledge. Even today its presentation and style have lost nothing of their freshness. It is still the best source from which to learn relativity theory. Its author was an outsider, not even a member of the scientific profession. fie was, in 1905, a young :Ph.D., twenty-six, and a clerk in the Patent Office in Berne, Switzerland."

Smilga, Relativity and Man (Page:240-241)

We will post more articles on this topic on Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity and debates around them.