Einstein's Revolution: Reconciliation of Mechanics, Electrodynamics and Thermodynamics

Physis.Rivista Internazionale Di Storia Della Scienza (1):181-207 (2000)
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The aim of this paper is to make a step towards a complete description of Special Relativity genesis and acceptance, bringing some light on the intertheoretic relations between Special Relativity and other physical theories of the day. I’ll try to demonstrate that Special Relativity and the Early Quantum Theory were created within the same programme of statistical mechanics, thermodynamics and Maxwellian electrodynamics reconciliation, i.e. elimination of the contradictions between the consequences of this theories. The approach proposed enables to explain why classical mechanics and classical electrodynamics were “refuted” almost simultaneously or, in terms more suitable for the present discussion, why did the quantum and the relativistic revolutions both took place at the beginning of the 20-th century. I ‘ll argue that the quantum and the relativistic revolutions were simultaneous since they had common origin - the clash between the fundamental theories of the second half of the 19-th century that constituted the “body” of Classical Physics. The revolution’ s most dramatic turning point was Einstein’s 1905 light quantum paper, that laid the foundations of the Old Quantum Theory and influenced the fate of special theory of relativity too. Hence, the following two main interrelated theses are defended.(1)Einstein’s special relativity 1905 paper can be considered as a subprogramme of a general research programme that had its pivot in the quantum; (2) One of the reasons of Einstein’s victory over Lorentz consists in the following: special relativity theory superseded Lorentz’s theory when the general programme imposed itself, and, in so doing, made the ether concept untenable. Key words: A.Einstein; H.Lorentz; I.Yu.Kobzarev; context of discovery; context of justification

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Rinat M. Nugayev
Moscow State University


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