Eddington and Einstein

  • John Stachel
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 95)


In this paper I shall discuss Eddington’s work in the field of relativity and Einstein’s reaction to it. But it must be stressed that his work in this area, important as it was, is the lesser part of his life’s work. His greatest and most enduring contributions were in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. His biographer, A.V. Douglas,1 says: “After 1906 astronomy was the dominant interest in Eddington’s life and, to a most unusual extent, his work was his life and his life was his work.”


Cosmological Constant Gravitational Field Gold Medal Affine Connection Gravitational Field Equation 
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    I must note a misunderstanding of one of Eddington’s remarks in Pais’ recent book on Einstein, A. Pais, Subtle is the Lord... (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), which I fear may mislead those who have not read Eddington. Pais states on p. 284 that “Eddington... believed that [gravitational] waves were spurious and ‘propagate... with the speed of thought.’” What Eddington actually says on p. 130 is that “We can ‘propagate’ coordinate changes with the speed of thought....” What he is concerned about here is an invariant separation of coordinate effects from physical ones. He had a justified doubt about Einstein’s treatment of gravitational waves, which was based upon the use of certain coordinate conditions. In line with his emphasis on the fundamental importance of the Riemann tensor, Eddington wrote a paper later in 1922 in which he used propagation of the Riemann tensor as a coordinate-invariant characterization of gravitational waves. This is quite a modern point of view, which he was the first to adopt.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Stachel
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston UniversityUSA

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