Pathways out of Classical Physics

  • Jürgen Renn
  • Tilman Sauer
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 250)

The relativity revolution was far from complete when Einstein published his pathbreaking paper on the electrodynamics of moving bodies in 1905. It started with his reinterpretation of Lorentz’s theory of electromagnetism in what may be called a “Copernicus process” in analogy to the transition from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican world system or to the transition from preclassical to classical mechanics.1 In such a transition the formalism of an old theory is largely preserved while its semantics change.2 Einstein’s special theory of relativity of 1905 had altered the semantics of such fundamental concepts like space and time, velocity, force, energy, and momentum, but it had not touched Newton’s law of gravitation. Since, however, according to special relativity, physical interactions cannot propagate faster than light, Newton’s well-established theory of gravitation, based on instantaneous action at a distance, was no longer acceptable after 1905. The relativity revolution was completed only when this conflict was resolved ten years later in November 1915 with Einstein’s formulation of the general theory of relativity.


Classical Physic Correspondence Principle Conservation Principle Newtonian Limit Lorentz Model 
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  • Jürgen Renn
    • Tilman Sauer

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