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The Curious History of Relativity: How Einstein's Theory of Gravity Was Lost and Found Againby Jean Eisenstaedt
Synopses & ReviewsPublisher Comments:Black holes may obliterate most things that come near them, but they saved the theory of general relativity. Einstein's theory was quickly accepted as the true theory of gravity after its publication in 1915, but soon took a back seat in physics to quantum mechanics and languished for decades on the blackboards of mathematicians. Not until the existence of black holes by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose in the 1960s, after Einstein's death, was the theory revived. Almost one hundred years after general relativity replaced Newton's theory of gravitation, The Curious History of Relativity tells the story of both events surrounding general relativity and the techniques employed by Einstein and the relativists to construct, develop, and understand his almost impenetrable theory. Jean Eisenstaedt, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, also discusses the theory's place in the evolution of twentiethcentury physics. He describes the main stages in the development of general relativity: its beginnings, its strange crossing of the desert during Einstein's lifetime while under heated criticism, and its new life from the 1960s on, when it became vital to the understanding of black holes and the observation of exotic objects, and, eventually, to the discovery of the accelerating universe. We witness Einstein's construction of his theory, as well as the work of his fascinated, discouraged, and enthusiastic colleagues; physicists, mathematicians, and astronomers. Written with flair, The Curious History of Relativity poses, and answers, the difficult questions raised by Einstein's magnificent intellectual feat. Synopsis:"Jean Eisenstaedt takes us on a bold and exciting journey into the world of general relativity, bringing insight and wit to a difficult subject. His explanation of the geometrical nature of the theory is masterful. Eisenstaedt is one of the few historians who has tackled in a clear way how the physics community first accepted relativity, then ignored it, and now uses it as an everyday tool in their work."Jeffrey Crelinsten, The Impact Group, Toronto, and author of Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity
"Eisenstaedt's very readable book offers an excellent introduction to the fascinating history of general relativity, written by one of the leading experts in the field. Taking a broad perspective, it shows how Einstein's theory emerges from a long historical tradition, and how it continues to pose challenging problems to this day."Jürgen Renn, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
"Jean Eisenstaedt's book is highly significant for the history of science because it is really the first serious look at the evolution of concepts in the history of general relativity after Einstein's death. It was the development of the concept of the black hole between the late 1950s and late 1960s that constituted the real birth of general relativity, and this story and the lead up to it is the story that Eisenstaedt tells here with unmatched authority. This book is, then, a founding text that sets out the historical context of this fascinating issue. The story of the discovery of black holes is a remarkable intellectual parable in itself, and Eisenstaedt tells it brilliantly."Daniel J. Kennefick, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and coeditor of the Einstein Papers Project
"Beginning with Einstein's early work on a general theory of relativity at the start of the twentieth century, Eisenstaedt's book guides us through the attempts of several generations of relativists to resolve and detect this fascinating theory's strange physical consequences. From Schwarzschild's 'magical sphere' to Wheeler's 'black hole,' fifty years of scientific indifference and even opposition to this puzzling branch of physics elapsed before relativistic cosmology was reborn at last, and the theory of general relativity recaptured the public spotlight."Diana Kormos Buchwald, Einstein Papers Project, Caltech Synopsis:Black holes may obliterate most things that come near them, but they saved the theory of general relativity. Einstein's theory was quickly accepted as the true theory of gravity after its publication in 1915, but soon took a back seat in physics to quantum mechanics and languished for decades on the blackboards of mathematicians. Not until the existence of black holes by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose in the 1960s, after Einstein's death, was the theory revived.
Almost one hundred years after general relativity replaced Newton's theory of gravitation, The Curious History of Relativity tells the story of both events surrounding general relativity and the techniques employed by Einstein and the relativists to construct, develop, and understand his almost impenetrable theory. Jean Eisenstaedt, one of the world's leading experts on the subject, also discusses the theory's place in the evolution of twentiethcentury physics. He describes the main stages in the development of general relativity: its beginnings, its strange crossing of the desert during Einstein's lifetime while under heated criticism, and its new life from the 1960s on, when it became vital to the understanding of black holes and the observation of exotic objects, and, eventually, to the discovery of the accelerating universe. We witness Einstein's construction of his theory, as well as the work of his fascinated, discouraged, and enthusiastic colleaguesphysicists, mathematicians, and astronomers.
Written with flair, The Curious History of Relativity posesand answersthe difficult questions raised by Einstein's magnificent intellectual feat. About the AuthorJean Eisenstaedt is Senior Researcher at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) attached to the Paris Observatory. The widely praised French edition of "The Curious History of Relativity" was published as "Einstein et la relativite generale". Eisenstaedt's most recent book is "Avant Einstein. Relativite, lumiere, gravitation" (Before Einstein: Relativity, Light, Gravitation).
Table of ContentsForeword vii
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