36500 Days Ago

About 36,500 days ago, the man I admire the second-most published a paper called On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. He was a patent examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in Berne. His name which I take with deep reverence was Albert Einstein. That paper introduced his theory of relativity to the world. For the record, a few lines from the introduction to the English translation of the paper:

. . . the unsuccessful attempts to discover any motion of the earth relatively to the “light medium,” suggest that the phenomena of electrodynamics as well as of mechanics possess no properties corresponding to the idea of absolute rest. They suggest rather that, as has already been shown to the first order of small quantities, the same laws of electrodynamics and optics will be valid for all frames of reference for which the equations of mechanics hold good.1 We will raise this conjecture (the purport of which will hereafter be called the “Principle of Relativity”) to the status of a postulate, and also introduce another postulate, which is only apparently irreconcilable with the former, namely, that light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity c which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body. These two postulates suffice for the attainment of a simple and consistent theory of the electrodynamics of moving bodies based on Maxwell’s theory for stationary bodies. The introduction of a “luminiferous ether” will prove to be superfluous inasmuch as the view here to be developed will not require an “absolutely stationary space” provided with special properties, nor assign a velocity-vector to a point of the empty space in which electromagnetic processes take place.

[Thanks to Saheli’s Musings and Observations for the reminder.]

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