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First reactions to Einstein's theories? (support or refute)

  1. Feb 19, 2010 #1
    I'm just curious, what was the first reactions to Einstein's theories (it was 1905, right?) ... were they refuted or supported?

    was it like "Oh! these are nonsense..these are pseudoscience .. we shall burn you"?!

    or were they garnered respectable amount of debate?... were they supported by scientific giants of that time?..


    P.S: any good links would be appreciated too.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2010 #2
    The scientific giants of the time, such as Lorentz, Fitzgerald and Poincare had already created most of the mathematical framework for Special Relativity, so they would have no reason to disagree with it. They basically differed in the interpretation of what the maths meant and Einstein was credited with having the better interpretation.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  4. Feb 19, 2010 #3


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    Einstein published three papers in 1905: relativity, the photoelectric effect, and Brownian motion.

    I don't think the Brownian motion paper was controversial.

    The photoelectric effect was controversial. Bohr, for example, argued for decades that matter should be quantized, but electromagnetic radiation shouldn't.
  5. Feb 19, 2010 #4
    i saw this movie called "Einstein & Eddington". The movie showed that it was refuted in England due to obvious reasons (Einstein being from Germany). However after practical results of Einstein actually being right and a few years past, Einstein was supported. Eddington was a scientist from England who actually believed Einsteins theories would work.
  6. Feb 19, 2010 #5


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    Yes, by Planck.
    Just in the improbable case that you're going to argue that the PF community would likely have rejected Einstein's theories, just as it now rejects "theory" xy:
    But there's a difference between SR and xy: the latter actually is nonsense and pseudoscience, the former is a theory. And one doesn't get burned for it, one gets banned, which is not lethal.
  7. Feb 19, 2010 #6
    To be fair, we'd do what any sane people would, demand evidence and examine the whole thing. Relativity didn't become a HOUSHOLD word until Eddington returned home. It was at least well accepted enough in England that a young Paul Dirac latched onto it asap.

    From 'The Strangest Man', I can say that at the time the pseudoscience was coming primarily from people hocking pamphlets claiming to teach this 'new theory' (not unlike similar ads in SciAm, and every other publication of today). Once that confirmation occured, it was a stampede to learn from a limited number of capable teachers. OF course, there were people claiming to teach Relativity who misunderstood, decieved, etc... but that happens with any new theory.

    Now, unlike then, the information would be all about the world as it was being developed, or at least upon publication. Access to documents of record is so common now, you have to remember that at the time the issue was less about acceptance and more about getting the word around in a meaningful way.
  8. Feb 19, 2010 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    Actually, four, plus his dissertation. Relativity was in two parts: SR and mass-energy equivalence. In 1906 he published a paper on the specific heat of solids, which explained the empirical law of Dulong and Petit.
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