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Concepts of Simultaneity: From Antiquity to Einstein and Beyond [Hardcover]

Max Jammer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 12, 2006 0801884225 978-0801884221

Max Jammer's Concepts of Simultaneity presents a comprehensive, accessible account of the historical development of an important and controversial concept—which played a critical role in initiating modern theoretical physics—from the days of Egyptian hieroglyphs through to Einstein's work in 1905, and beyond. Beginning with the use of the concept of simultaneity in ancient Egypt and in the Bible, the study discusses its role in Greek and medieval philosophy as well as its significance in Newtonian physics and in the ideas of Leibniz, Kant, and other classical philosophers. The central theme of Jammer's presentation is a critical analysis of the use of this concept by philosophers of science, like Poincaré, and its significant role in inaugurating modern theoretical physics in Einstein's special theory of relativity. Particular attention is paid to the philosophical problem of whether the notion of distant simultaneity presents a factual reality or only a hypothetical convention. The study concludes with an analysis of simultaneity's importance in general relativity and quantum mechanics.

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Editorial Reviews


The study forms a comprehensive history of the concept of simultaneity from earliest antiquity to the present, the first with such a historical sweep. In addition, Max Jammer has done an invaluable service in bringing together in an impressive manner material related to the extended controversies associated with the concept of simultaneity within 20th-century physics and philosophy of physics.

(Ronald Anderson, Boston College)

Concepts of Simultaneity excels at clearly explaining subtle but important issues. The book is incisive and valuable; it will appeal not only to historians and philosophers of physics but also to physicists drawn to the elements of special relativity.

(Alberto A. Martinez Physics Today)

This interesting, carefully crafted analysis of some fundamental ideas belongs in good college library collections... Highly recommended.


Concepts of Simultaneity provides a welcome survey of the development of our views and theories of simultaneity, bringing together sources in history, physics and philosophy. The book covers an impressive array of material.

(Jill North American Scientist)

The view of simultaneity presented by Max Jammer is almost breathtaking... I think Jammer has written a valuable book.

(Allen I. Janis Sudies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics)

Presents a very well-researched and thought-provoking analysis of the topic.

(Mark Shumelda History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences)

I highly recommend the book.

(Craig Callender Isis)

Jammer's book is a significant contribution to the literature on the physics of time and merits the attention of both physicists and philosophers of science.

(Howard E. Brandt Mathematical Reviews)

About the Author

Max Jammer, who was personally acquainted with Albert Einstein while at Princeton, is former president and professor emeritus of Bar-Ilan University and author of a number of important books, mainly in the philosophy of physics. Among his numerous awards are the Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the much coveted Israel Prize.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801884225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801884221
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,347,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best science writer I know November 22, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you want science writing with clarity, rigor, and thoroughness, but no scientism, Max is your man. This is the best science writing I know. (Caution; I'm not a scientist.) He's also the only one to study the history of these concepts, one by one (as opposed to studying the history of science as a whole). Or at least he was the first. A unique reference - referring to the whole set.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful overview March 23, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent review of relativity theory and other theories of space, time and simultaneity. The last chapter in particular was enlightening because it confirmed that I wasn't crazy in thinking that Einstein had pulled a fast one, which has since become dogma, in his assumptions about time and simultaneity. As Jammer discusses in detail, Einstein's assumptions are just that, assumptions. As Selleri and others have shown, assuming that the two-way speed of light is constant is just one of an infinite possible values. Also, assuming that the two-way speed of light is constant is what results in the relativity of time and space, but we don't have to make this assumption. If we assume instead that the two-way speed of light varies based on the motion of the observer - as literally all other speeds vary in our universe - then we don't get the relativity of time and space that results from Einstein's theories. Personally, I think Lorentz's earlier relativity theory mirrors reality better than Einstein's theories.
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