Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais | Go to book overview

9
'The Happiest Thought of my Life'

Musz es sein? Es musz sein.

The February 17, 1921, issue of Nature is almost completely devoted to relativity. It appeared at a time when 'in two cases predicted [by general relativity] phenomena for which no satisfactory alternative explanation is forthcoming have been confirmed by observation, and the third is still a subject of inquiry' [L1] The first two phenomena are the precession of the perihelion of Mercury and the bending of light by the sun. Both effects had been calculated by Einstein in 1915. The first agreed very well indeed with long-known observations. The second had waited until 1919 for confirmation. The third was the red shift of radiation, the experimental magnitude of which was still under advisement in 1921.

This issue of Nature appeared at a time when Einstein was already recognized as a world figure, not only by the physics community but by the public at large. Its opening article is by Einstein and begins, 'There is something attractive in presenting the evolution of a sequence of ideas in as brief a form as possible . . .' [E1]. There follow papers by Dyson and Crommelin, the astronomers, by jeans, Lorentz, Lodge, and Eddington, the physicists, and by Hermann Weyl, the mathematician. Also included are the inevitable philosophical contributions. This issue of the journal had been long in coming. The plan for it was conceived a few weeks after the historic November 6, 1919, joint meeting of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society in London, at which the results of the May 1919 eclipse expeditions had been reported as being in agreement with Einstein's theory. In that same month, Einstein had been approached for a contribution to Nature [L2]. It was he who by his efforts to be 'as brief as possible' caused much delay. In January 1920 his article was almost ready 'but has become so long that I doubt very much whether it can appear in Nature' [E2]. It did not. His short paper which eventually did appear [E1] is quite different from his original manuscript, entitled 'Grundgedanken und Methoden der Relativitätstheorie in ihrer Entwicklung dargestellt.' That paper was never published but has survived. The

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Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To the Reader vii
  • Contents (entries in Italics Are Almost Entirely Biographical) xi
  • I- Introductory 3
  • 1- Purpose and Plan 5
  • 2- Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory 26
  • 3 - Portrait of the Physicist as a Young Man 49
  • II- Statistical Physics 53
  • 4- Entropy and Probability 55
  • 5- The Reality of Molecules 79
  • III- Relativity, the Special Theory 109
  • 6- ''subtle is the Lord . . .'' 111
  • 7- The New Kinematics 138
  • 8- The Edge of History 163
  • IV- Relativity, the General Theory 175
  • 9- ''The Happiest Thought of My Life'' 177
  • References 184
  • 10- Herr Professor Einstein 190
  • 11- The Prague Papers 192
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • References 228
  • 13- Field Theories of Gravitation 237
  • 14- The Field Equations of Gravitation 239
  • 15 - The New Dynamics 292
  • V- The Later Journey 297
  • 16- ''The Suddenly Famous Doctor Einstein'' 299
  • 17- Unified Field Theory 325
  • VI - The Quantum Theory 355
  • 18 - Preliminaries 363
  • 19- The Light-Quantum 364
  • 20- Einstein and Specific Heats 389
  • 21- The Photon 402
  • 22- Interlude- The Bks Proposal 416
  • 23- A Loss of Identity 423
  • 24- Einstein as a Transitional Figure 435
  • 25- Einstein''s Response to the New Dynamics 440
  • 26- Einstein''s Vision 460
  • VII- Journey''s End 471
  • 27- The Final Decade 473
  • 28- Epilogue 479
  • VIII- Appendices 481
  • 29- Of Tensors and a Hearing Aid and Many Other Things 483
  • 30- How Einstein Got the Nobel Prize 502
  • 31 - Einstein''s Proposals for the Nobel Prize 518
  • 32- An Einstein Chronology 520
  • Name Index 531
  • Subject Index 539
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