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Week 15: Einstein’s generation. Time.

Lecture slides and handout

New theories of space and time transformed how people understood their place in the cosmos. This lecture explores these developments from the Einsteinian revolution to Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time.

Seminar Questions

  • What distinguishes ‘classical’ from ‘modern’ physics?
  • What was the most important factor in the development of special relativity and quantum mechanics?
  • Who accepted and rejected Einstein’s ideas, and why?
  • How should we understand ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ in the history of modern physics?

Essential Readings
Staley, Richard, ‘On the Co-Creation of Classical and Modern Physics’, Isis 96 (2005)

Galison, Peter, ‘Einstein’s Clocks: The Place of Time’, Critical Inquiry 26 (2000)

Additional Readings

Forman, Paul, ‘Weimar Culture, Causality and Quantum Theory, 1918-1927’, Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences, 3 (1971)

Galison, Peter, Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time (London: Sceptre, 2004)

Galison, Peter, How Experiments End (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987)

Glick, Thomas (ed.), The Comparative Reception of Relativity (Dordrecht, D. Reidel Publishing, 1987)

Hendry, John, ‘Weimar Culture and Quantum Causality’, History of Science, 18 (1980)

Hu, Danian, China and Albert Einstein: The Reception of the Physicist and His Theory in China, 1917-1979 (Harvard, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009)

Janssen, Michel and Christoph Lehner (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Einstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Josephson, Paul, Physics and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991)

Nye, Mary Jo (ed.), The Cambridge History of Science: The Modern Physical and Mathematical Sciences, vol. 5 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Rentetzi, Maria, ‘Gender, Politics and Radioactivity Research in Interwar Vienna: The Case of the Institute for Radium Research’, Isis, 95 (2004)

Seth, Suman, ‘Crisis and the Construction of Modern Theoretical Physics’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 40 (2007)

Staley, Richard, ‘Trajectories in the History and Historiography of Physics in the Twentieth Century’, History of Science, 51 (2013)

Staley, Richard, Einstein’s Generation: the Origins of the Relativity Revolution (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008)

Warwick, Andrew, Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press)