Prof. David E. Rowe has published a review of my third book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, Second edition:
Galina Weinstein. Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity. Second edition. xv + 642 pp., bibl., notes, index. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017. £80.99 (cloth). ISBN 9781443895125.
and Hanoch Gutfreund’s and Jürgen Renn’s book, The Formative Years of Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein’s Princeton Lectures, Princeton University Press under the title:
Hanoch Gutfreund; Jürgen Renn. The Formative Years of Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein’s Princeton Lectures.; Galina Weinstein. Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity.
I will speak as if the book, The Formative Years of Relativity was written by an author Gutfreund to emphasize that the main author of the book is Gutfreund without forgetting about Renn’s important contributions to the book.
Rowe’s book review compares the two books, mine and Gutfreund’s. But there is nothing common between my third book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, Second Edition, and Gutfreund’s book, The Formative Years of Relativity. Indeed, the first thing that strikes the reader is Rowe’s choice to compare two books that have nothing to do with one another in one review simply because the titles of the two books have the word “relativity”. My book discusses the genesis of special and general relativity (1905-1918) and Gutfreund’s book encompasses the period after 1918, especially the 1920s which he calls “the formative years of relativity”. These are two completely different topics and periods of time. Gutfreund discusses the “debates and developments characterizing the early reception and spread of Einstein[‘s] ideas in the late 1910s and 1920s” (preface, Gutfreund and Renn 2017). The main theme of my book Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, Second Edition is Einstein’s own intellectual path to relativity.
The second thing that catches the eye of the reader is that Rowe is mentioned in the acknowledgements section in the preface of Gutfreund’s book (preface, Gutfreund and Renn 2017):
“Special thanks are due to our colleagues and friends Alexander Blum, Yemima Ben-Menachem, […], David E. Rowe, Donald Salisbury, and Robert Schulmann”.
In such circumstances, it seems that Rowe cannot write an objective review. Indeed, Rowe praises with much insincerity Gutfreund’s and Renn’s book but gives what seems like an unfair review of my third book, which should be rectified. I first comment on Rowe’s criticism in his book review of the editing process of my book and then correct his errors in reviewing my book (I am following Rowe’s order of presentation).
My intention in this piece is only to explain the reasoning behind the editing process of my book and to correct the errors in Rowe’s review.
The editing process of my book:
Firstly, Rowe writes (Isis —Volume 110, Number 1, March 2019, 203):
“While she sings the praise of the CSP stuff, the lapses in layout and copyediting begin with the table of contents. The cover design, produced by the author, shows a drawing entitled ‘Einstein is wearing the Patent Office Suit,’ which should bring to mind one of the most iconic of all photographs of the young genius. Inside one finds a great deal of rambling, barely edited prose in six chapters […].”
I drew the cover design by myself because the Einstein Archives and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem would not give me permission to use Einstein’s quotations in my first book: Between 2012 and 2014 the Einstein Archives and the Hebrew University refused to give me permission to use quotations from Einstein’s manuscripts and papers in my first book. I chased for two years the Hebrew University and only after two years, did I receive the permission. In this state of affairs, I realized that I would neither get any permission to use photos of Einstein nor would I be able to reproduce any photo of an Einstein document in my book. I thus had no other choice but to draw Einstein on the front cover. At least I am capable of drawing.
Major parts of my book were edited by Prof. John Stachel. Stachel wanted to publish the book by Springer as part of the Einstein Studies series. However, the Hebrew University put a spoke in the wheels of this plan. Stachel stepped down a few times from editing the Einstein Studies series and the Hebrew University delayed the permission, as said above, and the end result was that I missed the opportunity to publish by Springer, the Einstein Studies series. Finally, I published my first book by CSP. The third book is a second edition of the first book and this is the reason why the title of the book remained the same (it’s the publisher’s decision).
Secondly, Rowe writes in his review (Isis —Volume 110, Number 1, March 2019, 203):
“A reader might wonder what Weinstein means by ‘critical biography,’ but since she offers no explanation I will demur from giving an opinion. In fact, I am at a loss to explain why she included Chapter A in her book at all, since its contents have virtually no bearing on Einstein’s paths to special and general relativity. At any rate, what she delivers is nothing but strings of information about his life […]. In Chapter F (“The Sources”) she distinguishes between documentary and nondocumentary biographies, noting that both can be unreliable. Here she shows no hesitation to criticize earlier work, but usually just by making flippant remarks rather than cogent arguments. She also writes as if no one before her has ever reviewed the literature bearing on Einstein and relativity. Her book makes no reference to Klaus Henschel’s monumental 1990 study of the reception of relativity among philosophers (cited several times by Gutfreund and Renn). Nor does she cite my own more recent discussion of the biographical literature in ‘Einstein and Relativity: What Price Fame?’ (Science in Context, 2012, 25: 197-246). Even more glaring than these omissions is another: she never points out that several of the biographies she writes about are blatantly hagiographic”.
John Stachel who edited my book thought that the book should have a short biography of Einstein, and this would be the first chapter of the book. He edited the sources chapter: documentary and non-documentary biographies and in the third edition, I extended it. Finally, I don’t “criticize earlier work”. What seems like a criticism of earlier work is actually an attenuated version of Stachel’s review (see Stachel, John, Einstein from B to Z, Springer, 2002, 556). The purpose of the “sources” chapter is not to review the literature bearing on Einstein and relativity, rather it is meant to provide complementary information on the sources used in the book.
As to “Klaus Hentschel’s monumental 1990 study of the reception of relativity among philosophers” (Interpretationen und Fehlinterpretationen der speziellen und der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie durch Zeitgenossen Albert Einsteins). It is not so relevant for my third book which discusses the history of Einstein’s intellectual journey to special and general relativity until 1918, i.e. Einstein’s path to the special and general theory of relativity until 1918. I need not here dwell on Hentschel’s book but its theme is fully pertinent to the topics dealt with in Gutfreund’s book. Nonetheless, I do mention Klaus Hentschel in my book (see the reference list of my book):
Hentschel, Klaus (1992). “Einstein’s Attitude towards Experiments: Testing relativity theory 1907–1927.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 23, 593-624.
And I also mention two of Prof. Rowe’s works in my book (see my reference list):
Rowe, David E. (2008). “Max von Laue’s Role in the Relativity Revolution.” The Mathematical Intelligencer 30, 54-60.
Rowe, David E. and Schulmann Robert (2007). Einstein on Politics: His Private Thoughts and Public Stands on Nationalism, Zionism, War, Peace, and the Bomb. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
The above professors, however, don’t mention my papers in their works…
The errors in Rowe’s book review:
Now I would like to correct Rowe’s embarrassingly blatant errors in his book review of my book.
Firstly, Prof. Rowe writes: “she never points out that several of the biographies she writes about are blatantly hagiographic” (Isis 2019, 203).
This is not true. I do point out that the biographies are hagiographic. I even say this on the back cover of my Book. See the back cover of my book which says: “The first chapter provides a narrative of Einstein’s early life until 1914 without resorting to hagiography”.
Back cover of my book.
Secondly, Prof Rowe writes (Isis —Volume 110, Number 1, March 2019, 203-204):
“Chapter D deals with the period preceding the formative years. Those familiar with the work of John Stachel, the doyen of modern Einstein scholarship, will likely find little new to contemplate in this survey, which forthrightly adopts Stachel’s ‘drama in three acts’. In sharp contrast with Gutfreund and Renn, who identify over fifty other actors during the formative years, Weinstein’s account puts Einstein alone in the limelight. She writes that her aim, “the simplification of the history of physics” (p. xv), was achieved with minimal reliance on mathematical formulas. Yet a cursory glance at this new chapter reveals that nearly every page contains formulas, many of them surely intelligible only to specialists, Gutfreund and Renn wrote their commentary using virtually none; they wisely left technicalities for Einstein to explain. Moreover, their lucid and compelling writing is packaged in a book that is not only readable but beautifully designed and affordable!”
I don’t forthrightly adopt Stachel’s drama in three acts! Prof. Rowe easily fell into the trap of the three-act drama because Stachel edited major parts of my book! In fact, after presenting Stachel’s three-act drama, I adopt quite the opposite point of view. I write on page 279 in my book:
“There is, however, the objection by Jürgen Renn that the genesis of general relativity did not quite unfold in the form of a classic three-act drama between 1907 and 1915. The story begins before 1907 and continues well beyond 1915. An additional problem of this portrait as a classic three-act drama is that it leaves out what is usually considered ‘a villain’ in this story, namely a theory on which Einstein worked between 1913 and 1915, in Zurich mostly but later also in Berlin, where he discarded it. It is called the preliminary or the draft, outline, in German, the Entwurf theory (Renn, 2016; Janssen, Norton, Renn, Sauer and Stachel, “Introduction to Vol. 1 and 2” in Renn et al 2007, 16)”.
And I follow this line of reasoning in my book rather than the three-act drama!
In fact, I dedicated a whole big section (pages 321-398) to the Entwurf theory and to all the intricacies of the Entwurf theory from 1913 to 1915.
Thirdly, Prof. Rowe then says that my account puts Einstein alone in the limelight. This is not quite true because I explicitly write that Chapter D of my third book complements the text of my second book General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, which focuses on Einstein’s interaction with other scientists.
Indeed, in my third book, the one reviewed by Rowe, I write in the preface:
“My primary goal in writing this second edition of Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, is the following: Firstly, I have updated and made corrections and minor revisions in many places in the text. I have also simplified explanations. Secondly, I have added a chapter (Chapter D) on Einstein’s route to the General Theory of Relativity (1905 – 1918) that will complement the text in my book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, in which I focus on the work of Albert Einstein and his interaction with and response to many eminent and not-so-eminent scientists (1905 – 1945). In General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries I demonstrate that the ongoing discussions between Einstein and other scientists have all contributed to the edifice of general relativity and relativistic cosmology. In this edition of Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, I centralize on Einstein’s own creativity, invention and inner struggles on his route to general relativity, rather than on his interactions with other scientists”.
Gutfreund even read my book General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries but failed to cite it in his book, The Formative Years of Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein’s Princeton Lectures. He writes on page 94 in Chapter 6 of his book The Formative Years of Relativity:
“Questions about the nature of this propagation [gravitational waves] and its velocity already naturally led to a discussion of gravitational waves. Such questions did in fact arise in connection with the Entwurf theory […] after Einstein presented it in 1913 in Vienna. In the discussion period Max Born asked [a quotation…] and Einstein responded [a quotation]” and so forth.
I wrote on pages 242-243 of my second book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, in 2015 (and I also wrote this in other pieces as well) that the first time Einstein mentioned gravitational waves was in the discussion after the Vienna lecture in 1913:
“In the discussion after Einstein’s 1913 Vienna talk, Max Born asked Einstein about the speed of propagation of gravitation, whether the speed would be that of the velocity of light. Einstein replied that it is extremely simple to write down the equations for the case in which the disturbance in the field is extremely small […] In 1916 Einstein followed these steps and studied gravitational waves.
Gutfreund does not cite my works. In the same book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, published in 2015, I write on pages 287-288:
“Einstein later explains this in his 1938 book with Infeld in the following thought experiment. Although Infeld wrote the book, it is reasonable to assume that the thought experiment came from Einstein.
Consider a great elevator at rest at the bottom of a building much higher than any real one. […] We thus have two observers, K’ and K’’ and two opposite points of view: the phenomenon is different for the two. There would be no equivalence of K and K’’ and from the behaviour of the light ray we could say that K’ is in absolute motion: whenever an observer on Earth finds a bent light ray in an accelerated elevator, he knows that the reference frame under consideration is in absolute motion. Here then we have a version of Newton’s bucket Experiment”.
And on page 35 of his 2017 book, The Formative Years of Relativity: The History and Meaning of Einstein’s Princeton Lectures, Gutfreund writes the same thing but does not cite my book:
“In this sense, the uniformly accelerated frame of reference introduced by Einstein and later often described in terms of the elevator thought experiment was nothing but a simplified version of the bucket thought experiment of Newton and Mach”.
Rowe writes (Isis —Volume 110, Number 1, March 2019, 202):
“Gutfreund and Renn show, in 1921–1922 Einstein was still struggling to defend his views regarding Mach’s principle and its cosmological implications, ideas that Willem de Sitter had challenged directly (see p. 70 for de Sitter’s notes from a conversation with him in Leiden in September 1916). Yet in the years that followed Einstein seems to have fallen silent when it came to cosmological matters, even when faced with Hermann Weyl’s open heresy (to which he reacted only brieﬂy in a letter; see p. 78). Weyl had initially defended Einstein’s arguments against de Sitter’s matter-free model of the universe, but he gradually drifted over to the other side, arguing instead for a ﬁeld-theoretic ether as the primary agent accounting for inertia (as opposed to distant masses à la Mach). Weyl also cited Vesto Slipher’s early observations of redshift effects among distant nebulae as further support for de Sitter’s model. Still, as noted by the authors, serious consideration of nonstatic models of the universe came only later. In the wake of Hubble’s ﬁndings, Einstein and de Sitter could agree they had both been wrong, and in 1932 they tossed out Einstein’s cosmological constant and introduced a new model, the Einstein–de Sitter universe”.
In my second book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, 2015, on pages 242-359 (more than hundred pages) I extensively discuss the above-mentioned historical milestones: Einstein’s efforts to defend Mach’s ideas and principle, Einstein’s 1920 “Mach’s Ether”, Einstein’s discussions and correspondence with Willem de Sitter, Einstein’s interaction with Hermann Weyl. Weyl’s position first corresponded exactly to Einstein’s when he criticised de Sitter’s solution and then Weyl crossed the lines, as I extensively discuss in my book. Weyl found that spectral lines show redshift to a first-order approximation proportional to their distances in de Sitter’s world. I also present this matter in my book and say that these considerations were suggested in connection with Slipher’s observations. I perform historical analysis of Hubble’s findings, Eddington’s cosmological model, Einstein’s cosmological constant, Einstein’s steady-state model, the Einstein-de Sitter model, etc.
Rowe writes (Isis —Volume 110, Number 1, March 2019, 203): “Weinstein’s idiosyncratic book is already her third in as many years published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing”.
Having mentioned my three books published by CSP and comparing my work and Gutfreund’s, Rowe should also have mentioned that I had discussed the aforementioned topics.
Fourthly, Rowe notes that I write in my preface that I promise “minimal reliance on mathematical formulas. Yet a cursory glance at this new chapter reveals that nearly every page contains formulas, many of them surely intelligible only to specialists. Gutfreund and Renn wrote their commentary using virtually none; they wisely left the technicalities for Einstein to explain”.
However, I write in my preface (p. xv):
“Einstein also thought that a scientist should not attempt to popularize his theories. It is the duty of a scientist to remain obscure (Douglas Vibert 1956, 99-100). I thus have attempted to make Chapter D as intriguing as possible to readers with strong physics and historiography backgrounds. With this objective in mind, the explanations in Sections 3-7 of Chapter D are, understandably, less general. The mathematical background needed to read these sections corresponds to the level of a college student graduating in science”.
Surprisingly, therefore, Einstein sided with me!