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16. Einstein

CHRISTOPHER RAY


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00019.x


Extract

In 1920, the eminent British astronomer and scientist Sir Arthur Eddington proclaimed that “Albert Einstein has provoked a revolution of thought in physical science” (p. vii). The preceding 15 years had seen historic scientific advances in three fields: quantum theory, relativistic kinematics, and gravitation. The genius of Einstein (1879–1955) had been perhaps the most important element in the early development of these fields. The year 1905 is often said to be Einstein's “annus mirabilis” - a truly miraculous year in which he published some 25 scientific articles including not only the landmark paper introducing the special theory of relativity, but also some quite remarkable contributions to quantum theory (see, e.g., Lanczos 1974 , preface). By 1918, Einstein had extended the ideas involved in relativity to the problem of gravitation, and had laid the foundations for some astonishing discoveries in cosmology, with recent research into black holes and the big bang owing much to his pioneering work on the large-scale structure of the universe. Einstein had a tremendous and lasting influence on the scientific community; but he also captured the public imagination - and the attention of many leading twentieth-century philosophers. Three episodes in Einstein's scientific life have attracted particularly close and sustained philosophical scrutiny: the birth of the special theory ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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