A Historical Note on Gravitational Waves

Dr. Roni Gross (press conference) holds Einstein’s general relativity paper from May 1916, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity” (“Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie.” Annalen der Physik 49, 769-822). However, in this paper Einstein did not discover gravitational waves. Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, the academic director of the Albert Einstein Archives, asked Dr. Rony Gross to present this document to the journalists.




Equations (52) and (53) from the original page on the right above:


are Einstein’s field equations for systems in unimodular coordinates. There are no gravitational waves here!

In his 1916 general relativity paper, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity”, Einstein imposed a restrictive condition on his field equations. This condition is called unimodular coordinates.

Einstein presented the gravitational waves later in 1916, in a paper published under the title, “Approximate Integration of the Field Equations of Gravitation” (“Näherungsweise Integration der Feldgleichungen der Gravitation.” Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin). Sitzungsberichte, 688–696).

After the 1916 general relativity paper, Einstein succeeded in relinquishing the restrictive unimodular coordinates condition and in his new gravitational waves paper his equations were not restricted to systems in unimodular coordinates.


How did Einstein predict the existence of gravitational waves?

Einstein’s Discovery of Gravitational Waves 1916-1918

Einstein and Gravitational Waves 1936-1938

For further details on Einstein predicting gravitational waves read Chapter 3, section 1 in my new book: General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, Einstein Polemics with physicists.



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