Some of the topics discussed in my first book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity

People ask questions about Einstein’s special theory of relativity: How did Einstein come up with the theory of special relativity? What did he invent? What is the theory of special relativity? How did Einstein discover special relativity? Was Einstein the first to arrive at special relativity? Was Einstein the first to invent E = mc2?

Did Poincaré publish special relativity before Einstein? Was Einstein’s special theory of relativity revolutionary for scientists of his day? How did the scientific community receive Einstein’s theory of special relativity when he published it? What were the initial reaction in the scientific community after Einstein had published his paper on special relativity?

In my book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, I try to answer these and many other questions.The topics discussed in my book are the following:

I start with Einstein’s childhood and school days.


I then discuss Einstein’s student days at the Zurich Polytechnic. Einstein the rebellious cannot take authority, the patent office, Annus Mirabilis, University of Bern and University of Zurich, Minkowski’s space-time formalism of special relativity.


Young Einstein, Aarau Class 1896

Additional topics treeated in my book are the following: Fizeau’s water tube experiment, Fresnel’s formula (Fresnel’s dragging coefficient), stellar aberration, and the Michelson and Michelson-Morley Experiments.


Albert Einstein at the Patent office

Mileva Marić and Einstein




Eduard Tete, Mileva Marić and Hans Albert


Einstein’s road to the special theory of relativity: Einstein first believes in the ether, he imagines the chasing a light beam thought experiment and the magnet and conductor thought experiment. Did Einstein respond to the Michelson and Morley experiment? Emission theory, Fizeau’s water tube experiment and ether drift experiments and Einstein’s path to special relativity; “The Step”.


Henri Poincaré’s possible influence on Einstein’s road to the special theory of relativity.


Einstein’s methodology and creativity, special principle of relativity and principle of constancy of the velocity of light, no signal moves beyond the speed of light, rigid body and special relativity, the meaning of distant simultaneity, clock synchronization, Lorentz contraction, challenges to Einstein’s connection of synchronisation and Lorentz contraction, Lorentz transformation with no light postulate, superluminal velocities, Laue’s derivation of Fresnel’s formula, the clock paradox and twin paradox, light quanta, mass-energy equivalence, variation of mass with velocity, Kaufmann’s experiments, the principles of relativity as heuristic principles, and Miller ether drift experiments.


The book also briefly discusses general relativity: Einstein’s 1920 “Geometry and Experience” talk (Einstein’s notion of practical geometry), equivalence principle, equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass, Galileo’s free fall, generalized principle of relativity, gravitational time dilation, the Zurich Notebook, theory of static gravitational fields, the metric tensor, the Einstein-Besso manuscript, Einstein-Grossmann Entwurf theory and Entwurf field equations, the hole argument, the inertio-gravitational field, Einstein’s general relativity: November 1915 field equations, general covariance and generally covariant field equations, the advance of Mercury’s perihelion, Schwarzschild’s solution and singularity, Mach’s principle, Einstein’s 1920 suggestion: Mach’s ether, Einstein’s static universe, the cosmological constant, de Sitter’s universe, and other topics in general relativity and cosmology which lead directly to my second book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries.


My books



My book: Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity

2015 marks several Albert Einstein anniversaries: 100 years since the publication of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, 110 years since the publication of the Special Theory of Relativity and 60 years since his passing.


What is so special about this year that deserves celebrations? My new book on Einstein: Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity has just been returned from the printers and I expect Amazon to have copies very shortly.


The Publisher uploaded the contents and intro.


I hope you like my drawing on the cover:


Einstein, 1923: “Ohmmm, well… yes, I guess!”



The book is dedicated to the late Prof. Mara Beller, my PhD supervisor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who passed away ten years ago and wrote the book: Quantum Dialogue (Chicago University Press, 1999):


Have a very happy Einstein year!

איינשטיין ותורת הקוונטים Einstein and the Light Quantum

In 1905 Planck, a coeditor of the Annalen der Physik, accepted Einstein’s paper on light quanta for publication, even though he disliked the idea of “light quanta”. Einstein’s relativity paper was received by the Annalen der Physik at the end of June 1905 and Planck was the first scientist to notice Einstein’s relativity theory and to report favorably on it. In the 1905 relativity paper Einstein used the notion, “light complex”, and he did not invoke his novel quanta of light heuristic with respect to the principle of relativity. He chose the language “light complex” for which no clear definition could be given. But with hindsight, in 1905 Einstein made exactly the right choice not to mix concepts from his quantum paper with those from his relativity paper. He focused on the solution of his relativity problem, whose far-reaching perspectives Planck already sensed. x

In the Electrodynamical part of the Relativity paper Einstein considers the system K. Very far from the origin of K, there is a source of electromagnetic waves. Let part of space containing the origin of coordinates 0 be represented to a sufficient degree of approximation by plane waves. Einstein asks: What characterizes the waves when they are examined by an observer at the same point 0, but at rest in the system k, moving relatively to K with constant speed v? x

Einstein applies the Lorentz transformation and transformation equations for electric and magnetic fields to the equations of the plane electromagnetic wave with respect to K. He obtains the Doppler principle, i.e., the frequency of electromagnetic waves as it appears in the system k and K: f’/f.   x

Einstein then finds the amplitude of the waves as it appears in the system k; the amplitude of the electric or magnetic waves A or A’, respectively, as it is measured in the system K or in the system k. Einstein gives the equation for the square of amplitude, Pointing vector. x

We expect that the ratio of the square of the amplitude of a given light complex “measured in motion” and “measured at rest” would be the energy if the volume of a light complex were the same measured in K and k. However, says Einstein, this is not the case.  x

Einstein thus instead considers a spherical surface of radius R moving with the velocity of light. He is interested in the light energy enclosed by the light surface. No energy passes outside through the surface of the spherical light surface, because the surface and the light wave both travel with the velocity of light. He calculates the amount of energy enclosed by this surface as viewed from the system k, which will be the energy of the light complex relative to the system k. The spherical surface – viewed in the system k – is an ellipsoidal surface. If we call the energy of the light enclosed by this surface E when it is measured in system K, and E’ when measured in system k, we obtain the equation that relates between E and E’.  x

Einstein realizes that, “It is noteworthy that the energy and the frequency of a light complex vary with the observer’s state of motion according to the same law”. x

Namely, E’/E = f’/f.     x

John Stachel read my manuscript and said that this formula corresponds to that of the light quantum hypothesis, and in hindsight this supplies extra evidence for the later hypothesis. Einstein’s aim is to show that the equation E = hv that he uses in the quantum paper takes the same form in any inertial frame. That is, E = hv is transformed to E’ = hv’ and thus the relativity postulate is not violated.  x

I wrote in my manuscript that Rynasiewicz wrote in 2005 (and even before that) that, “Einstein wraps up his derivation with what is clearly an allusion to the light quantum hypothesis”. Rynasiewicz adds that “What he does not draw attention to there is the intimate relation of this result to the relative character of simultaneity”.  x

However, Stachel told me that he was the first to notice that in his relativity paper Einstein implicitly referred to the light quantum hypothesis and he told me to delete Rynasiewicz’s comment. x

Then in light of my manuscript Stachel wrote the following paragraph, which reflects my manuscript, and also the collected papers of Einstein, which he edited

Before submitting his 1905 special relativity paper, Einstein had submitted the light quantum paper – the only one of his 1905 papers he considered truly revolutionary. “On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Generation and Transformation of Light”, sent to the Annalen on March 17th, 1905, and received by the Annalen a day afterwards. Indeed Einstein wrote Habicht in May 1905 about this paper, “It deals with the radiation and energy characteristics of light and is very revolutionary”.  x

This paper extended the range of application of Planck’s 1900 quantum hypothesis. In order to explain his law of black body radiation, which had been well-verified empirically, Planck was forced to assume that oscillators interacting with the electromagnetic field could only emit and/or absorb energy in discrete units, which he called quanta of energy. The energy of these quanta was proportional to the frequency of the oscillator: E = hv. But Planck believed, in accord with Maxwell’s theory, that the energy of the electromagnetic field itself could change continuously. x

Einstein now showed that, if this formula were extended to the electromagnetic field energy itself, a number of phenomena involving interactions between matter and radiation, otherwise inexplicable classically, could now be simply explained with the help of these light quanta. x

But, he was at work on his relativity paper too; so the question naturally arose, if the equation E = hv holds in one inertial frame of reference, will it hold in all others. If not, then Einstein’s relativity principle would be violated. Since h, the so-called quantum of action, is a universal constant, the question reduces to: Do the energy and frequency of a light quantum transform in the same way in passing from one inertial frame to another. And this is just what he demonstrates in his paper. x

Hence, not wanting to introduce a discussion of his still-quite-speculative light quantum hypothesis into a paper which he regarded as simply an extension of well accepted classical ideas from mechanics to electromagnetism and optics, he confined his proof to the classical level. x

Instead of “light quanta”, in his proof he introduced the rather awkward term “light complex”, a term that he soon dropped. x

In my paper discussing relativity and light quanta I bring both opinions and I also refer to Einstein’s Collected Papers. x

HUJI, Lucien Chavan

paper abstract