History of relativity and laws of motion

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hellfire
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I am searching for a book that describes with depth the history of physics from Galileo, Newton, etc. to Einstein, especially the formulation of the principle of relativity and the laws of motion. Most of the treatments of the subject I am aware of (mainly internet sites), do not point out the great conceptual difficulties that for example people like Galileo had to be overcome regarding inertia, isotropy and homogeneity of space, synchronization, circular motion, etc. and usually describe them as rather obvious conclusions from our modern perspective. I would like to see a discussion of the conceptual alternatives that were present at every stage of the formulation of the theories (e.g. anisotropic inertia, ether) and a extensive description of the problems.
 
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robphy
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These may be useful:

A history of the theories of aether and electricity.
by E T Whittaker

Relativistic kinematics.
by Henri Arzeliès

Relativistic point dynamics
by Henri Arzeliès
 
  • #3
hellfire
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Thank you for your answer. The first one seams to be the book I am looking for. However, it is expensive (actually both volumes together seam to be very expensive...). For the other two there are less references and comments on internet, or at least on amazon (the first seams to be out of print). Do you have them? Would you recommend especially one of them or both?
 
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robphy
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They are available in my university library.
Google each title. Add "site:worldcatlibraries.org" to the search field.
One may be able to obtain them by interlibrary-loan.

The books by Arzeliès have a lot of obscure references on relativity, including alternate approaches, formulations, and notations. They have detailed discussions of various concepts and paradoxes, including some discussion of the struggles to understand some of them.

I haven't really looked into the Whittaker book yet... but I plan to.

As someone who is looking for new ways to teach relativity, I have found many gems in the Arzeliès books. I would strongly recommend them to anyone who wants to see aspects of relativity from many points of view.
 
  • #5
Integral
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Maxwell's Conundrum: A Serious but Not Ponderous Book About Relativity
by Author: Walter Scheider

Here is a book I found very interesting.
 
  • #6
hellfire
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Thanks, I saw the book in amazon. The contents are not available. Could you please give me a short statement about the level and depth?
 
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Integral
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it is a history book, not a math book. Does that help?
 
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While I haven't read it yet, have you looked at Einstein's Biography by Pais?
 
  • #9
hellfire
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What I am interested in is the history of ideas related to relativity, especially how it was developed our understanding of intertial reference frames and their relation to inertia as the basic element for the definition of the notions of space and time. The book must not contain math, but it must describe this in detail; for example, which are the drawbacks of possible theories with anisotropic inertia and in which extent are they equivalent to the current ones? why and when have they been discarded? what ether theories were considered as meaningful until which experiment or conceptual step?, etc.
 
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I have the book "A history of mechanics" by Rene Degas. It's usually considered to be very good as far as the early history of mechanics is concerned, but I have no idea how well it treats relativity. It does have a very good treatment of the 19th century discussions on relativity, causality and the foundations of Newtonian mechanics (Poincare, Hertz, Duhem), so this might be what you're looking for.

Plus, it's a Dover paperback, and therefore probably quite cheap.
 

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