Research Article

General Relativity and Gravitation

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1735-1748

First online:

On the history of the so-called Lense-Thirring effect

  • Herbert PfisterAffiliated withInstitut für Theoretische Physik, Universität Tübingen Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Some historical documents, especially the Einstein–Besso manuscript from 1913, an extensive notebook by H. Thirring from 1917, and the correspondence between Thirring and Einstein in the year 1917 reveal that most of the merit for the so-called Lense-Thirring effect of general relativity belongs to Einstein. Besides telling this “central story” of the effect, we give a short “prehistory”, with contributions by E. Mach, B. and I. Friedlaender, and A. Föppl, followed by the later history of the problem of a correct centrifugal force inside a rotating mass shell, which was resolved only relatively recently.


Lense-Thirring effect Dragging Coriolis force Centrifugal force Mach’s principle