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The Formative Years of Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein's Princeton Lectures

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First published in 1922 and based on lectures delivered in May 1921, Albert Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity offered an overview and explanation of the then new and controversial theory of relativity. The work would go on to become a monumental classic, printed in numerous editions and translations worldwide. Now, The Formative Years of Relativity introduces Einstein’s masterpiece to new audiences. This beautiful volume contains Einstein’s insightful text, accompanied by important historical materials and commentary looking at the origins and development of general relativity. Hanoch Gutfreund and Jurgen Renn provide fresh, original perspectives, placing Einstein’s achievements into a broader context for all readers.

In this book, Gutfreund and Renn tell the rich story behind the early reception, spread, and consequences of Einstein’s ideas during the formative years of general relativity in the late 1910s and 1920s. They show that relativity’s meaning changed radically throughout the nascent years of its development, and they describe in detail the transformation of Einstein’s work from the esoteric pursuit of one individual communicating with a handful of colleagues into the preoccupation of a growing community of physicists, astronomers, mathematicians, and philosophers.

This handsome edition quotes extensively from Einstein’s correspondence and reproduces historical documents such as newspaper articles and letters. Inserts are featured in the main text giving concise explanations of basic concepts, and short biographical notes and photographs of some of Einstein’s contemporaries are included. The first-ever English translations of two of Einstein’s popular Princeton lectures are featured at the book’s end.

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Gutfreund Hanoch
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Hanoch Gutfreund is professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is also the academic director of the Albert Einstein Archives.

Jurgen Renn is a director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. His books include The Genesis of General Relativity.

Diana Kormos Buchwald ix
Preface xiii
I Preliminaries 1
1 Introduction 3
2 Einstein’s First Trip to America 11
3 Structure and Contents of The Meaning of Relativity 17
II The Emerging World of General Relativity 23
1 Physics and Geometry 25
2 The Principles of General Relativity 34
3 The First Solutions and the Challenge of Their Interpretation 46
4 Einstein and the Astronomers 52
5 The Genesis of Relativistic Cosmology 69
6 The Controversy over Gravitational Waves 94
7 Philosophical Debates on General Relativity 106
8 The Quest for a Unified Field Theory 122
9 Early Monographs on Relativity 140
10 Beyond the Formative Years 155
III Einstein’s Book with the Appendixes 159
1 Space and Time in Pre-relativity Physics 161
2 The Theory of Special Relativity 184
3 The General Theory of Relativity 215
4 The General Theory of Relativity (Continued) 239
5 Appendix for the Second Edition: On the “Cosmologic Problem” 269
6 Appendix II (PUP 4th edition, 1953): Generalization of Gravitation Theory 293
7 Appendix II (PUP 5th edition, 1956): Relativistic Theory of the Non-symmetric Field 326
IV The Popular Lectures 361
1 Introductory Remarks 363
2 Einstein’s Lectures 366
V Biographical Notes on the Protagonists of the Formative Years 387
Index 409

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