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The Principle of Relativity (Dover Books on Physics)

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 080-0759600816
ISBN-10: 0486600815
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

In addition to conducting the research that culminated in his acclaimed theories of relativity, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) taught and lectured at universities around the world. Einstein received numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine, and philosophy, and he remains a towering symbol of intellectual and imaginative achievement.

It's All Relative
Around 1950, Hayward Cirker, Founder and President of Dover Publications, wrote to Einstein and asked his approval to proceed with a Dover paperback reprint of the 1923 collection of original papers on relativity by Einstein himself and others (H. A. Lorentz, H. Weyl, and H. Minkowski), which had originally been published in England. Einstein was reluctant, wondering how much interest there could possibly be in this relic of his work from 30 or more years earlier. Cirker persisted, and Einstein finally agreed — the Dover edition of The Theory of Relativity has been in print ever since and has been followed by many other Dover books on relativity.

The papers reprinted in this original collection will always be for the serious student the cornerstone of their Einstein library: Michelson's Interference Experiment (H. A. Lorentz); Electromagnetic Phenomena in a System Moving with any Velocity Less Than That of Light (H.A. Lorentz); On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (A. Einstein); Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon its Energy Content? (A. Einstein); Space and Time (H. Minkowksi with notes by A. Sommerfeld); On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light (A. Einstein); and The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity (A. Einstein) found on pages 109–164 of this text; Hamilton's Principle and The General Theory of Relativity (A. Einstein); Cosmological Considerations on the General Theory of Relativity (A. Einstein); Do Gravitational Fields Play an Essential Part in the Structure of the Elementary Particles of Matter? (A. Einstein); and Gravitation and Electricity (H. Weyl).

In the Author's Own Words:
"How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought independent of experience, is so admirably adapted to the objects of reality?"

"What nature demands from us is not a quantum theory or a wave theory; rather, nature demands from us a synthesis of these two views which thus far has exceeded the mental powers of physicists."

"Do not be troubled by your difficulties with Mathematics, I can assure you mine are much greater." — Albert Einstein

Critical Acclaim for The Theory of Relativity:
"This book constitutes an indispensable part of a library on relativity." — Nature


Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Physics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (June 1, 1952)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486600815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486600819
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was born in Germany and became an American citizen in 1940. A world-famous theoretical physicist, he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics and is renowned for his Theory of Relativity. In addition to his scientific work, Einstein was an influential humanist who spoke widely about politics, ethics, and social causes. After leaving Europe, Einstein taught at Princeton University. His theories were instrumental in shaping the atomic age.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Of course this is a five-star book: it contains two of the most
important scientific documents of all time! It is, of course, not a book for beginners: the very Planck, who was the editor of the Annalen der Physik, where the German originals were published, had to ask for explanations a few times, in order to grasp the meaning of the "Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies". The teaching of relativity is now done in a rather different way, emphasizing, from the beginning, the 4-dimensional picture, as in Taylor-Wheeler's "Spacetime physics". Einstein's paper is on a modification of electrodynamics to make it agree with the tenets of relativity (the particular inertial frame being used is of no effect at all). In order to do that he finds it necessary to change mechanics, and actually the very basic concepts of mechanics. In contrast, the great paper on general relativity "Foundations of general relativity" has pedagogical preocupations, and is quite readable, including an interesting introduction to tensors which clearly shows that, master of the physics of the problem, Einstein was a novice at the mathematics of it. This book is a treasure. There are also papers by Lorentz, Poincare' and others. Great fun. But, learn your relativity first!
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Format: Paperback
This is a collection of the original papers that led to the principle of relativity.
The book gives excellent insight as to how and why the theory was developed. It clearly shows how the theory better explains certain parts of our universe.
The only drawback is that the mathematical level may cause the book to be unapproachable to many. I reccommend at least one year of Calculus if you intend to understand the works fully. Without such a background the book is difficult at best, but still rewarding.
If you lack this background you might be better served by reading Einsteins Relativity, the first book in the list above of what purchasers of this book also bought.
Nonetheless I agree with the School Science and Mathematics review,"It is really a thrill to read again the original papers by these giants."
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Format: Paperback
Reading the original papers would be best, but if you don't read German then the Dover collection is the next best thing. In the paper on special relativity, the Lorentz transformations are derived via formulating and solving a first order pde, a treatment that no textbook presents (first order pdes aren't taught in math physics, in spite of the fact that every set of first order autonomous odes generates a first order pde). It took my teaching the subject to advanced undergrads in later years to realize what many others have by now noticed, namely, you don't need two postulates for special relativity. "Galilean invariance" is enough. The constancy of the speed of light follows from the requirement that there is no special reference frame.
Einstein's presentation of GR is unsurpassed for conciseness and clarity, is a model for other researchers to follow when writing papers. Here, he introduces the famous misconception (corrected today in the better texts like Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler) that general covariance is a physical principle. Well, even the greatest minds make mistakes.
Feynman wrote well, but no scientist to date has written better than Einstein.
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Format: Paperback
I do not know how I can adequately review this. That this is indispensible to any theoretical physicist is pretty much the extent of what I am about to say. I mean, here you have the greatest scientific giants of all time grappling with some of the deepest, most complicated issues of 20th century physics: you not only get the opportunity of finding out what they really thought about relativity, with all mathematical and philosophical details, but you also are able to see how truly great minds go about solving difficult problems (which, I feel, should be an inspiration for modern theoreticians as to how to solve the problems associated with quantum gravity, string theory, etc.). Just the section of Einstein's paper The Foundations of a General Relativity Theory on the deep, philosophical reasons why a theory of nature should be generaly relativistic are well worth getting this book; I personally think that this one paper is the greatest scientific publication of all time (Principia is certainly bolder, more revolutionary, but Einstein's deepest ruminations, I feel, are almost religious). To be sure, one needs certain mathematical training to get the full benefit of this book, but this could be said of relativity in general; I personally do not think that one can fully comprehend relativity theory, in all its beautiful glory, without this training. Despite this, I still think it is possible, even without sufficient mathematical training, to get a real feel of how these titans thought and felt, even if just by osmosis (you know that profound thoughts are being expressed when you can almost grasp them without really understanding them). In short, it is the duty of every physicist, maybe even every scientist, not just to read, but to EXPERIENCE this book (that is the only way I can adequately describe this; it is an experience).
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By A Customer on July 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
This compact collection of English translations of the original papers is a cheap and highly accessible reference book.
The book is a chronology of the development of the theory of Relativity. Starting with Lorentz' papers on Michelson's interference experiment and electomagnetic phenomena in moving frames of reference, the book follows the rapid development of the subject from Einstein's ground breaking papers of 1905 on Electrodymanics and Inertia. Minkowski's original paper on Space-Time is a delight: it's always a pleasant surprise when one finds that the explanation of the originator has not been bettered in nearly 100 years!
Latter chapters of the book present Einstein's papers on General Relativity -which are mathematically complex. They are definately not the place to start if one wants to learn the principles of General Relativity. Nonetheless, after one has learnt the principles from more accessible materials, such as "The Principles of Cosmology and Gravitation" by M V Berry, these papers can be very useful as original sources that the reader can use in order to grasp the methods by which Einstein presented his revolutionary discoveries.
This is an excellent, high value, low cost source that is worth keeping!
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