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Ritz, Einstein, and the Emission Hypothesis

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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.

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Correspondence to Alberto A. Martínez.

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Martínez, A.A. Ritz, Einstein, and the Emission Hypothesis. Phys. perspect. 6, 4–28 (2004).

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