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

Publication Year:
Repository URL:
Scott A. Walter
Most Recent Tweet View All Tweets
preprint description
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.

This preprint has 2 Wikipedia mentions.

History of Lorentz transformations

The Lorentz transformations relate the space-time coordinates, which specify the position x, y, z and time t of an event, relative to a particular inertial frame of reference (the "rest system"), and the coordinates of the same event relative to another coordinate system movin...

Read full Article

Spherical wave transformation

Spherical wave transformations leave the form of spherical waves as well as the laws of optics and electrodynamics invariant in all inertial frames. They were defined between 1908 and 1909 by Harry Bateman and Ebenezer Cunningham, with Bateman giving the transformation its nam...

Read full Article