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Eddington and Einstein

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

Abstract

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.”

Keywords

Cosmological Constant Gravitational Field Gold Medal Affine Connection Gravitational Field Equation 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    A. V. Douglas, The Life of Arthur Stanley Eddington (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1956). It will be cited hereafter as Douglas.Google Scholar
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    See, in particular, J. Earman and C. Glymour, “Relativity and Eclipses: the British Eclipse Expeditions of 1919 and Their Predecessors,” Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 11 (1980):49Google Scholar
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    D. Moyer, “Revolution in Science: The 1919 Eclipse Test of General Relativity,” in: On the Path of Albert Einstein, eds. A. Perlmutter and L.F. Scott (New York: Plenum Press, 1979), pp. 55–101.Google Scholar
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    See the summary of his work he prepared in the thirties, printed in Douglas, pp. 189–192.Google Scholar
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    The manuscript of “A Total Eclipse of the Sun,” dated June 30, 1898, is among the Eddington Papers held in Trinity College Library, Cambridge. See Loren Graham’s article “Eddington and the English-Speaking World,” Between Science and Values (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). The first footnote to this article contains a list of some archives holding Eddington papers.Google Scholar
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    C. Perrine, Astron. Nachr. 219 (1923): 281. Perrine belatedly wrote this account as a result of the great interest generated by the later confirmations of Einstein’s prediction.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    A. S. Eddington, The Observatory 36 (1913): 63.Google Scholar
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    A. S. Eddington, MNRAS 38 (1915): 93.Google Scholar
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    I am indebted to Dr. A.J.F. Gogelein, Director of the Boerhave Museum, Leiden, for making copies of Eddington’s letters to de Sitter in that museum available to me. The reference to Einstein’s paper is almost surely to “Die Grundlagen der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie,” Annalen der Physik 49 (1916): 769.Google Scholar
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    Eddington is here referring to the three-part paper de Sitter wrote on Einstein’s theory, which was published in the MNRAS 76 (1916): 699; 77 (1916): 155; 78 (1917): 3.Google Scholar
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    A.F. Lindemann and F.A. Lindemann, MNRAS 77 (1916): 140.Google Scholar
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    Earman and Glymour, op. cit. MNRAS 77 (1916):, p. 71.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from W.H. McCrea, “Einstein: Relations with the Royal Astronomical Society, “Quart Journ. RAS 20 (1979): 255.Google Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, Report on the Relativity Theory of Gravitation (London: Fleetway Press, 1920), hereafter referred to as Report.Google Scholar
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    In addition to the references in note 2, see A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (London: MacMillan, 1925), p. 13 for an eyewitness account of this dramatic meeting.Google Scholar
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    Ronald Clark, Einstein The Life and Times (New York and Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1971).Google Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, Space Time and Gravitation: An Outline of the General Relativity Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920), hereafter referred to as Space Time and Gravitation.Google Scholar
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    See A. Hermann (ed.), Albert Einstein/Arnold Sommerfeld Briefwechsel (Basel-Stuttgart: Schwabe & Co., 1968), pp. 109–110 for Sommerfeld’s comment and Einstein’s reply.Google Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, Proc. Roy. Soc. A99 (1921): 104. Quotation from p. 106.Google Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, The Theory of Relativity and Its Influence on Scientific Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1922).Google Scholar
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    He also wrote a semi-popular article, “Can Gravity be Explained,” expounding this view: A.S. Eddington, Scientia 33 (1923): 313.Google Scholar
  28. 29.
    Eddington to Einstein, June 12, 1921 (Item 9–277).Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    Einstein to Weyl, September 5,1921, Einstein-Sammlung ETH, Zurich, no. 551.Google Scholar
  30. 31.
    Einstein to Weyl, June 6, 1922 (Item 24–071).Google Scholar
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    Einstein to Bohr, January 11, 1923. The letter is printed in translation in: Einstein: A Centenary Volume, ed. A.P. French (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), p. 274.Google Scholar
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    Weyl to Einstein, May 18, 1923 (Item 24–074).Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Einstein to Weyl, postmarked May 23, 1923 (Item 24–080).Google Scholar
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    Einstein to Weyl, May 26, 1923 (Item 24–083).Google Scholar
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    A. Einstein, Sitzungber. preuss. Akad. Wiss., physik-math. Kl. 1923: 32Google Scholar
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    A. Einstein, Nature 112 (1923): 448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, The Mathematical Theory of Relativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923). Its Preface is dated August 10, 1922.Google Scholar
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    P.A.M. Dirac, in: Albert Einstein: Historical Perspectives, eds. G. Holton and Y. Elkana (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 79. Quotation from p. 82. Dirac’s paper also notes Eddington’s role as a popularizer of relativity theory.Google Scholar
  41. 40a.
    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
  42. 40b.
    See A.S. Eddington, Proc. Roy. Soc. A 102 (1922): 268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Einstein to Besso, June 6, 1925, in: Albert Einstein-Michele Besso Correspondence 1903–1955, ed. P. Speziali (Paris: Hermann, 1972), p. 204; See also the letter of December 25, 1925 on p. 215.Google Scholar
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    M.A. Tonnelat, Les théories unitaires de l’électromagnétisme et gravitation (Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1965), p. 273.Google Scholar
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    A. Einstein, Sitzungsber. preuss. Akad. Wiss. physik.-math. Kl. 1925, 414.Google Scholar
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    A. Einstein, Math. Annalen 97 (1926): 99. The quotation is from p. 100.Google Scholar
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    A.S. Eddington, Nature 123 (1929): 280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 47.
    Douglas, p. 45. For an elaboration of this point, see Einstein’s letter to Besso of August 10, 1954, translated in A.P. French (ed.), Einstein/A Centenary Volume (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 267–269.Google Scholar
  49. 48.
    A. A. Friedmann, Zeitschr. f. Physik 11 (1922): 326. The original paper only considered three-spaces of constant positive curvature, but Friedmann considered those of negative curvature in a second paper.Google Scholar
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    See document 1–026 in the Einstein Archive for the manuscript, A. Einstein, Zeitschr. f Physik 16 (1923): 228 for the printed text.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 50.
    A. S. Eddington, MNRAS 91 (1931): 412; quotation from p. 414.Google Scholar
  52. 51.
    The first and most fundamental of his papers is A. S. Eddington, MNRAS 90 (1930): 668.Google Scholar
  53. 52a.
    I am indebted to J. D. North, The Measure of the Universe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965)Google Scholar
  54. 52b.
    J. Merleau-Ponty, Cosmologie du XX e siècle (Paris: Gallimard, 1965), and George Ellis, “The Expansion of the Universe and the de Sitter Effect” (unpublished) for a number of features of my account of this sudden switch of paradigms.Google Scholar
  55. 53.
    Entry of January 3, 1931: “Doubts about correctness of Tolman’s work on cosmological problem. Tolman, however, was in the right.” (Item 5–256).Google Scholar
  56. 54.
    Einstein to Besso, March 1, 1930. See Einstein-Besso Correspondence (note 41 above).Google Scholar
  57. 55.
    The paper was presented to the session of April 16, 1931, and published in A. Einstein, Sitzungber. d. preuss. Akad. Wiss., physik-math. Kl. 1931, 235.Google Scholar
  58. 56a.
    A. Einstein and W. de Sitter, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 18 (1932): 213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 56b.
    A. Einstein and W. de Sitter, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 18 (1932): 57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 56c.
    A.S. Eddington, Proc. Phys. Soc. 44 (1932): 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 58.
    See A.S. Eddington, “On the Value of the Cosmological Constant,” Proc. Roy. Soc. A133 (1931): 605.Google Scholar
  62. 59.
    Einstein to Besso, July 29, 1953. See Einstein—Besso Correspondence, p. 500 (note 41 above).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Stachel
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston UniversityUSA

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