Michelson, FitzGerald and Lorentz: the origins of relativity revisited

Publication Year:
2003
Usage 3009
Downloads 3009
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/987
Author(s):
Brown, Harvey R.
artifact description
It is argued that an unheralded moment marking the beginnings of relativity theory occurred in 1889, when G. F. FitzGerald, no doubt with the puzzling 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment fresh in mind, wrote to Heaviside about the possible effects of motion on inter-molecular forces in bodies. Emphasis is placed on the difference between FitzGerald's and Lorentz's independent justifications of the shape distortion effect involved. Finally, the importance of the their `constructive' approach to kinematics---stripped of any commitment to the physicality of the ether--- will be defended, in the spirit of Pauli, Swann and Bell.