Friday, October 7, 2011

Generations of Einstein detractors

Astrophysicist Tony Rothman writes about Einstein in a 2003 book, Everything's Relative:
He, perhaps alone among physicists, has penetrated the scientific consciousness no less than the public consciousness. And he is in all probability unique in that, despite generations of detractors, he seems to have done virtually everything credited to him.
He changed his mind in a 2006 article, Lost in Einstein's Shadow, as noted here.

Yes, lots of famous scientists are credited for what was really done by others. It is bizarre for Rothman to have written that Einstein was the only exception, and that Einstein really did all of relativity. All Rothman had to do was to read what some of those generations of detractors wrote.

Rothman eventually came around to the view that Einstein's most famous paper, his 1905 special relativity paper, plagiarized the main ideas from Lorentz's 1904 paper, and that Einstein lied about it all of his life. Einstein always denied having seen that 1904 paper.

Most Einstein historians accept his story. The main technical argument is that Lorentz gave the correct formulas for relativistic mass in 1904, and Einstein got them wrong in 1905. They say that if Einstein had plagiarized Lorentz, then Einstein would have gotten the formulas correct.

Whether Einstein lied or not, Lorentz was years ahead of him.

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