The Symbolic Universe: Geometry and Physics 1890-1930

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Physics was transformed between 1890 and 1930, and this volume provides a detailed history of the era and emphasizes the key role of geometrical ideas. The first part of the book discusses the application of n-dimensional differential geometry to mechanics and theoretical physics, the philosophical questions on the reality of geometry, and reviews the broad international debate about the nature of geometry and its connections with psychology. The second part then examines the reception of Einstein's theory of special relativity following 1905. It covers Minkowski's reformulation of the theory, providing the first complete picture of his work, and it describes Einstein's path to formulating general relativity. The chapter on Hilbert's efforts to axiomatize relativity argues against the traditional view of Hilbert as arch-formalist, and the following chapter provides the first detailed account of Emmy Noether's work on physics. The final section examines the work by Ricci, Levi-Civita, and Weyl to give a new formulation of general relativity in terms of the Riemann differential. This collection will be an invaluable resource for historians and philosophers of science.
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Editorial Reviews

In nine papers from a March 1996 conference in London, historians of science from Europe, Israel, and the US examine relations between the two disciplines during the period, concentrating on attempts to apply geometrical ideas to physics and to understand and reformulate physics in geometric terms. The topics include geometrizing configurations by Heinrich Hertz and his mathematical precursors; Einstein, Poincar<'e>, and the testability of geometry; the non-Euclidean style of Minkowskian relativity; the G<:o>ttengen response to general relativity and Emmy Noether's theorems; Ricci and Levi-Civita from differential invariants to general relativity; and Weyl and the theory of connections. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198500889
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford
  • Publication date: 7/28/1999
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Notes on contributors Introduction, Jeremy Gray
Introduction, Jeremy Gray
1. Geometrising configurations. Heinrich Hertz and his mathematical precursors, Jesper Lützen
2. Einstein, Poincaré, and the testability of geometry, Arthur Miller
3. Geometry--formalisms and intuitions, Jeremy Gray
Introduction, Jeremy Gray
4. The non-Euclidean style of Minkowskian relativity, Scott Walter
5. Geometries in collision: Einstein, Klein and Riemann, John D. Norton
6. Hilbert and physics (1900-1915), Leo Corry
7. The Göttingen response to general relativity and Emmy Noether's theorems, David Rowe
Introduction, Jeremy Gray
8. Ricci and Levi-Civita: from differential invariants to general relativity, Umberto Bottazzini
9. Weyl and the theory of connections, Erhard Scholz
Name index Subject index

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