Physics in Perspective

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 4–28 | Cite as

Ritz, Einstein, and the Emission Hypothesis

  • Alberto A. MartínezEmail author
Original Article


Just as Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity was gaining acceptance around 1908, the young Swiss physicist Walter Ritz advanced a competing though preliminary emission theory that sought to explain the phenomena of electrodynamics on the assumption that the speed of light depends on the motion of its source. I survey Ritz’s unfinished work in this area and review the reasons why Einstein and other physicists rejected Ritz’s and other emission theories. Since Ritz’s emission theory attracted renewed attention in the 1960s, I discuss how the earlier observational evidence was misconstrued as telling against it more conclusively than actually was the case. Finally, I contrast the role played by evidence against Ritz’s theory with other factors that led to the early rejection of his approach.

Emission theories of light relativity Walter Ritz Albert Einstein H.A. Lorentz Paul Ehrenfest John G. Fox 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser-Verlag Basel 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Philosophy and History of ScienceBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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