My new paper on Einstein and general relativity

didMy new paper on Einstein and the general theory of relativity:



אודיסאת איינשטיין ליחסות הכללית Einstein’s Odyssey to General Relativity

מאמר שלי על דרכו של איינשטיין לתורת היחסות הכללית: אודיסאת איינשטיין ליחסות הכללית

סיינטיפיק אמריקן ישראל

“Einstein’s Odyssey to General Relativity”, Scientific American Israel

את המונח “אודיסאה” ליחסות הכללית טבע פרופ’ ג’ון סטצ’ל מאוניברסיטת בוסטון והוא מייצג את המסע המפרך של איינשטיין בדרכו ליחסות הכללית. ראו המאמר של סטצ’ל למטה

Odyssey to general relativity is John Stachel’s memorable phraseology. See:

Stachel, John (1979). “Einstein’s Odyssey: His Journey from Special to General Relativity”. In Einstein from B to Z, 2002.

I am sorry but this piece is in Hebrew. You can read my book General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries, my papers on Einstein and general relativity and a short summary below.


מפייסבוק: מארחים את ד”ר גלי וינשטיין לדבר על איינשטיין


My drawing of Einstein:      האיור שלי של איינשטיין

איינשטיין צעיר

And the original (I tried as hard as I could to draw a young Einstein…):       המקור


The article discusses the following topics:

1907. The Happiest thought of my life.


1907-1911. The equivalence principle and elevator experiments.


1911. Deflection of light and explaining deflection of light using an elevator thought experiment.


1911-1912 (1916). The disk thought experiment, gravitational time dilation and gravitational redshift.


1912. The disk thought experiment and non-Euclidean geometry.


1912. Einstein to Marcel Grossmann: “Grossmann, you must help me or else I’ll go crazy!”. Grossmann searched the literature, and brought the works of Bernhard Riemann, Gregorio Curbastro-Ricci, Tullio Levi-Civita and Elwin Bruno Christoffel to Einstein’s attention. With Grossmann’s help Einstein searched for gravitational field equations for the metric tensor in the Zurich Notebook.


1913-1914. The Entwurf theory. In 1913, Einstein and Michele Besso both tried to solve the new Entwurf field equations to find the perihelion advance of Mercury.

2October 1915. Einstein realizes there are problems with his 1914 Entwurf theory. November 1915. Einstein’s competition with David Hilbert.


November 1915. Four ground-breaking papers: Einstein presents the field equations of general relativity, finds the advance of the perihelion of Mercury and predicts that a ray of light passing near the Sun would undergo a deflection of amount 1.7 arc seconds.

My new paper on Einstein and Schwarzschild

My new paper on General Relativity: Einstein and Schwarzschild.

Sometime in October 1915 Einstein dropped the Einstein-Grossman theory. Starting on November 4, 1915, Einstein gradually expanded the range of the covariance of his field equations. On November 11, 1915 Einstein was able to write the field equations of gravitation in a general covariant form, but there was a coordinate condition (there are no equations here so I cannot write it down here).

On November 18, 1915, Einstein presented to the Prussian Academy his paper, “Explanation of the Perihelion Motion of Mercury from the General Theory of Relativity”. Einstein reported in this talk that the perihelion motion of Mercury is explained by his theory. In this paper, Einstein tried to find approximate solutions to his November 11, 1915 field equations. He intended to obtain a solution, without considering the question whether or not the solution was the only possible unique solution.

Einstein’s field equations are non-linear partial differential equations of the second rank. This complicated system of equations cannot be solved in the general case, but can be solved in particular simple situations. The first to offer an exact solution to Einstein’s November 18, 1915 field equations was Karl Schwarzschild, the director of the Astrophysical Observatory in Potsdam. On December 22, 1915 Schwarzschild wrote Einstein from the Russian front. Schwarzschild set out to rework Einstein’s calculation in his November 18 1915 paper of the Mercury perihelion problem. He first responded to Einstein’s solution for the first order approximation from his November 18, 1915 paper, and found another first-order approximate solution. Schwarzschild told Einstein that the problem would be then physically undetermined if there were a few approximate solutions. Subsequently, Schwarzschild presented a complete solution. He said he realized that there was only one line element, which satisfied the conditions imposed by Einstein on the gravitational field of the sun, as well as Einstein’s field equations from the November 18 1915 paper.

“Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht” (Einstein might have already said….), because the problem with Schwarzschild’s line element was that a mathematical singularity was seen to occur at the origin! Oh my, Einstein abhorred singularities.

Actually, Schwarzschild “committed another crime”: he did not satisfy the coordinate condition from Einstein’s November 11 or November 18, 1915 paper. Schwarzschild admitted that his coordinates were not “allowed” coordinates, with which the field equations could be formed, because these spherical coordinates did not have determinant 1. Schwarzschild chose then the non-“allowed” coordinates, and in addition, a mathematical singularity was seen to occur in his solution. But Schwarzschild told Einstein: Don’t worry, “The equation of [Mercury’s] orbit remains exactly as you obtained in the first approximation”! See my paper from 2012.

Einstein replied to Schwarzschild on December 29, 1915 and told him that his calculation proving uniqueness proof for the problem is very interesting. “I hope you publish the idea soon! I would not have thought that the strict treatment of the point- problem was so simple”. Subsequently Schwarzschild sent Einstein a manuscript, in which he derived his solution of Einstein’s November 18, 1915 field equations for the field of a single mass. Einstein received the manuscript by the beginning of January 1916, and he examined it “with great interest”. He told Schwarzschild that he “did not expect that one could formulate so easily the rigorous solution to the problem”. On January 13, 1916, Einstein delivered Schwarzschild’s paper before the Prussian Academy with a few words of explanation. Schwarzschild’s paper, “On the Gravitational Field of a Point-Mass according to Einstein’s Theory” was published a month later.


Karl Schwarzschild

In March 1916 Einstein submitted to the Annalen der Physik a review article on the general theory of relativity, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity”. The paper was published two months later, in May 1916. The 1916 review article was written after Schwarzschild had found the complete exact solution to Einstein’s November 18, 1915 field equations. Even so, in his 1916 paper, Einstein preferred NOT to base himself on Schwarzschild’s exact solution, and he returned to his first order approximate solution from his November 18, 1915 paper.

A comment regarding Einstein’s calculations in his November 18, 1915 paper of the Mercury perihelion problem and Einstein’s 1916 paper. In his early works on GTR, in order to obtain the Newtonian results, Einstein used the special relativistic limit and the weak field approximation, and assumed that space was flat (see my paper). Already in 1914 Einstein had reasoned that in the general case, the gravitational field was characterized by ten space-time functions of the metric tensor. g were functions of the coordinates. In the case of special relativity this reduces to g44 = c2, where c denotes a constant. Einstein took for granted that the same degeneration occurs in the static gravitational field, except that in the latter case, this reduces to a single potential, where g44 = c2 is a function of spatial coordinates, x1, x2, x3. 

Later that year David Hilbert (with a vengeance from 1915?…) arrived at a line-element similar to Schwarzschild’s one, and he concluded that the singularity disappears only if we accept a world without electricity. Such an empty space was inacceptable by Einstein who was apparently much attracted by Mach’s ideas! (later termed by Einstein “Mach’s Principle”). Okay, Einstein, said Hilbert: If there is matter then another singularity exists, or as Hilbert puts it: “there are places where the metric proves to be irregular”…. (See my paper from 2012).








Strange Days at Blake Holsey High: a student is sucked into the black hole…


The centenary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s first big project on Gravitation in Berlin was to complete by October 1914 a summarizing long review article of his Einstein-Grossmann theory. The paper was published in November 1914. This version of the theory was an organized and extended version of his works with Marcel Grossmann, the most fully and comprehensive theory of gravitation; a masterpiece of what would finally be discovered as faulty field equations.


On November 4, 1915 Einstein wrote his elder son Hans Albert Einstein, “In the last days I completed one of the finest papers of my life; when you are older I’ll tell you about it”. The day this letter was written Einstein presented this paper to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. The paper was the first out of four papers that corrected his November 1914 review paper. Einstein’s work on this paper was so intense during October 1915 that he told Hans Albert in the same letter, “I am often so in my work, that I forget lunch”.


In the first November 4 1915 paper, Einstein gradually expanded the range of the covariance of his field equations. Every week he expanded the covariance a little further until he arrived on November 25 1915 to fully generally covariant field equations. Einstein’s explained to Moritz Schlick that, through the general covariance of the field equations, “time and space lose the last remnant of physical reality. All that remains is that the world is to be conceived as a four-dimensional (hyperbolic) continuum of four dimensions” (Einstein to Schlick, December 14, 1915, CPAE 8, Doc 165) John Stachel explains the meaning of this revolution in space and time, in his book: Stachel, John, Einstein from ‘B’ to ‘Z’, 2002; see p. 323).

Albert Einstein as a Young Man

These are a few of my papers on Einstein’s pathway to General Relativity:

Stay tuned for my next centenary of GTR post!

Albert Einstein and David Hilbert – Einstein’s General Relativity

Sometime in October 1915 Einstein dropped the Einstein-Grossman “Entwurf” theory. He adopted the postulate that his field equations were covariant with respect to arbitrary transformations of a determinant equal to 1, and on November 4, 1915 he presented to the Prussian Academy these new field equations. Starting on November 4, 1915, Einstein gradually expanded the range of the covariance of his field equations

On November 7, 1915, Einstein sent David Hilbert the proofs to his first paper of November 4, and he wanted Hilbert to look at this work. Hilbert alsoreadEinstein’s1914reviewpaper discussing his “Entwurf” theory: Hilbert found some mistake in this paper; Einstein wrote that his colleague Arnold Sommerfeld wrote him that Hilbert had objected to the 1914 “Entwurf” foundations paper

By November 10, 1915 Hilbert probably answered Einstein’s letter, telling him about his system of electromagnetic theory of matter, the unified theory of gravitation and electromagnetism, in which the source of the gravitational field is the electromagnetic field. Hilbert’s goal was to develop an electromagnetic theory of matter, which would explain the stability of the electron

Between November 4 and November 11 it seems that Einstein was influenced by Hilbert’s physical attitude towards a field theory of matter. In his addendum to the first note, published on November 11 Einstein directly referred to the supporters of the electrodynamic worldview, “One now has to remember that, in accord with our knowledge, ‘matter’ is not to be conceived as something primitively given, or physically simple. There even are those, and not just a few, who hope to be able to reduce matter to purely electrodynamic processes, which of course would have to be done in a theory more complete than Maxwell’s electrodynamics”. Einstein probably discussed the electrodynamic worldview with Hilbert and felt that he was now in competition with the latter

In the addendum to the November 4 paper, the November 11 paper, Einstein added a coordinate condition (determinant equal to 1), which allowed him to take the last step and to write the field equations of gravitation in a general covariant form. He then dropped his November 4 postulate and adopted it as a coordinate condition

The day afterwards Einstein wrote Hilbert again. He told him about the progress in his work. Hilbert replied and invited Einstein to come to Göttingen. Hilbert explained to Einstein the main points of his new unified theory of gravitation and electromagnetism, and told Einstein that he had already discussed his discovery with Sommerfeld. He wanted next to explain it to Einstein. He thus invited him to come to hear his talk on November 16. Hilbert told Einstein that the latter’s November 4 paper was entirely different from his own work

With hindsight Hilbert’s work was different from Einstein’s November 4 paper in that, Hilbert eventually endeavored to derive generally covariant field equations for the combined gravitational and electromagnetic fields without explicitly writing down these equations. Hilbert accepted Einstein’s 1914 Hole Argument against general covariance (after Einstein had silently dropped it). Hilbert was thus finally obliged to supplement his generally covariant field equations by four non-generally covariant field equations based on rather dubious energy considerations, which Hilbert would eventually drop later when he would publish his paper (after Einstein presented his final form of field equations to the Prussian Academy on November 25). Einstein replied and told Hilbert he could not come, but requested a copy of his work. In response, Hilbert perhaps sent a copy of the lecture he had given on the subject on November 16, or else a copy of a manuscript of the paper he would present five days later on November 20 to the Royal Society in Göttingen

Einstein was already less patient after he had received Hilbert’s work. He replied to Hilbert on November 18 telling him that his work agrees – as far as he could see – exactly with what he had found in the last few weeks and have already presented to the Prussian Academy. Einstein was in competition with Hilbert and appeared to have been still influenced by his unified theory of matter, gravitation and electromagnetism until November 18. Indeed on Thursday, November 18, Einstein presented to the Prussian Academy his solution to the longstanding problem of the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, on the basis of his November 11 General theory of relativity

The day afterwards Hilbert sent a polite letter in which he congratulated Einstein on overcoming the perihelion motion. He was quite astonished that Einstein calculated so rapidly the precession of Mercury’s perihelion. In fact the basic calculation has already been done two years earlier with Michele Besso in the Einstein-Besso manuscript. Einstein transferred the basic framework of the calculation from the Einstein-Besso manuscript, and corrected it according to his November field equations

In November 1915 Einstein could calculate so rapidly the precession of Mercury’s perihelion for another reason. Einstein’s November 11 field equations for the metric tensor are the field equations for the gravitational field in the November 18 paper. The added coordinate condition, determinant equal to 1 (from Einstein’s November 11 paper), implied by the assumption of an electromagnetic origin of matter, was essential for Einstein’s calculation of the precession of Mercury’s perihelion

The November 11 field equations are non-linear partial differential equations of the second rank, and there is no general solution to these equations. Solving the field equations give the components of the metric tensor. In his November 18 paper Einstein tried to find approximate solutions

What happened during the week of November 18–25, 1915? After or while working on the solution of the problem of the Perihelion of Mercury, Einstein could resolve the final difficulties in his November 11 theory. It took him an extra week to arrive at the November 25 field equations. On November 26 Einstein wrote his close friend Heinrich Zangger, however, only one colleague has really understood it [his theory], and he is seeking to clearly “nostrify” it (Abraham’s expression).This colleague was David Hilbert

Recall that on November 19 Hilbert sent Einstein a letter in which he congratulated him on overcoming the perihelion motion. Hilbert ended his letter by asking Einstein to continue and keep him up to date on his latest advances. Hilbert did not tell Einstein about the important talk he was giving the day afterwards. Hilbert presented on November 20 a paper to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, “The Foundations of Physics”, including his version to the gravitational field equations of general relativity. Five days later on November 25, Einstein presented to the Prussian Academy his version to the gravitational field equations

At the end of the day it appears that Einstein did not “nostrify” Hilbert. After November 18 Einstein was no more influenced by Hilbert’s theory of matter, and he was thus not in competition with him anymore. His new field equations of November 25 with the new trace term are related to his work of November 4, and appear to have sprung from it

In two papers (here and here) I derive Einstein’s November 25, 1915 field equations from Einstein’s November 4, 1915 field equations and connect between the two. In his 1916 review paper, “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity” Einstein connected between his  November 4 and November 25 field equations and I follow his derivation

Update December 5, 2014. It took me two years to formulate the above ideas, to write them down and get them onto a scholarly paper. But finally I found a way to do this and yesterday I uploaded the paper.

Here it is: “Did Einstein ‘Nostrify’ Hilbert’s Final Form of the Field Equations for General Relativity?”

Albert Einstein as a Young Man