Penn State

Patrick J. Moylan - professor of physics, Eberly College of Science


Author: Jules Leveugle

Book Description:

At least since graduate school I have wondered why Einstein was not awarded the Nobel prize for inventing relativity. The answer given to me by my teachers was that the Nobel prize in physics is not awarded for theoretical work but only for experimental work. At that time I accepted their answer, but I felt uncertain about it. Or perhaps they meant that it had to be for theoretical work directly related to experimental findings, which, anyway, one can claim is not the case with relativity.

The book, La Relativité, Poincaré et Einstein, Planck, Hilbert, Histoire véridique de la Théorie de la Relativité, by Jules Leveugle, which, unfortunately, to my knowledge is not yet translated into English, gives abundant evidence to support the stand of Sir Edmund Whittaker in his famous treatise, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity, that special relativity was chiefly an invention of Lorentz and Poincaré. This includes giving credit to Poincaré for his derivation of the most famous formula in physics, namely E = mc2, several years before Einstein. According to Leveugle, Poincaré’s important contributions seem mostly to have gone unnoticed by the physics community of his time, and that is the main reason why Einstein has been given more credit than he is due, at least, as far as the creation of special relativity is concerned.

More physicists and especially authors of books on relativity need to be aware of these facts and of the historical evidence which substantiates them. It is not uncommon to see statements in books on relativity like "Einstein's famous equation, E = mc2" or "Einstein's addition of velocities formula," when it is clear beyond any doubt whatsoever that the relativistic addition of velocities formula was first derived by Poincaré. Is not the intention to discredit the genius of Einstein, but rather to give due credit to Poincaré for his no small effort and devotion to the creation of the theory of relativity that I chose this book.


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