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Relativity: The Special and General Theory
Albert Einstein (1879–1955).
AUTHOR: Einstein, Albert, 1879–1955.
TITLE: Relativity: The special and general theory, by Albert Einstein. Translated by Robert W. Lawson.
PUBLISHED: New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1920.
PHYSICAL DETAILS: xiii, 168 p. front (port.) 22 cm.
ISBN: 1-58734-092-5.
CITATION: Einstein, Albert. Relativity: The Special and General Theory. New York: Henry Holt, 1920;, 2000. [Date of Printout].
ON-LINE ED.: Published April 2000 by; © 2000 Copyright, Inc. (Terms of Use).
  Biographical Note Translator’s Note Frontispiece
THE PRESENT book is intended, as far as possible, to give an exact insight into the theory of Relativity to those readers who, from a general scientific and philosophical point of view, are interested in the theory, but who are not conversant with the mathematical apparatus(1) of theoretical physics. The work presumes a standard of education corresponding to that of a university matriculation examination, and, despite the shortness of the book, a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader. The author has spared himself no pains in his endeavour to present the main ideas in the simplest and most intelligible form, and on the whole, in the sequence and connection in which they actually originated. In the interest of clearness, it appeared to me inevitable that I should repeat myself frequently, without paying the slightest attention to the elegance of the presentation. I adhered scrupulously to the precept of that brilliant theoretical physicist, L. Boltzmann, according to whom matters of elegance ought to be left to the tailor and to the cobbler. I make no pretence of having with-held from the reader difficulties which are inherent to the subject. On the other hand, I have purposely treated the empirical physical foundations of the theory in a “step-motherly” fashion, so that readers unfamiliar with physics may not feel like the wanderer who was unable to see the forest for trees. May the book bring some one a few happy hours of suggestive thought!

December, 1916


IN the present year (1918) an excellent and detailed manual on the general theory of relativity, written by H. Weyl, was published by the firm Julius Springer (Berlin). This book, entitled RaumZeitMaterie (Space — Time — Matter), may be warmly recommended to mathematicians and physicists.

Note (1). The mathematical fundaments of the special theory of relativity are to be found in the original papers of H. A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, H. Minkowski published under the title Das Relativitäts-prinzip (The Principle of Relativity) in B. G. Teubner’s collection of monographs Fortschritte der mathematischen Wissenschaften (Advances in the Mathematical Sciences), also in M. Laue’s exhaustive book Das Relativitäts prinzip—published by Friedr. Vieweg & Son, Braunschweig. The general theory of relativity, together with the necessary parts of the theory of invariants, is dealt with in the author’s book Die Grundlagen der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie (The Foundations of the General Theory of Relativity)—Joh. Ambr. Barth, 1916; this book assumes some familiarity with the special theory of relativity. [back]

Part I: The Special Theory of Relativity
  1. Physical Meaning of Geometrical Propositions
  2. The System of Co-ordinates
  3. Space and Time in Classical Mechanics
  4. The Galileian System of Co-ordinates
  5. The Principle of Relativity (In the Restricted Sense)
  6. The Theorem of the Addition of Velocities Employed in Classical Mechanics
  7. The Apparent Incompatibility of the Law of Propagation of Light with the Principle of Relativity
  8. On the Idea of Time in Physics
  9. The Relativity of Simultaneity
  10. On the Relativity of the Conception of Distance
  11. The Lorentz Transformation
  12. The Behaviour of Measuring-Rods and Clocks in Motion
  13. Theorem of the Addition of Velocities. The Experiment of Fizeau
  14. The Heuristic Value of the Theory of Relativity
  15. General Results of the Theory
  16. Experience and the Special Theory of Relativity
  17. Minkowski’s Four-Dimensional Space

Part II: The General Theory of Relativity
  1. Special and General Principle of Relativity
  2. The Gravitational Field
  3. The Equality of Inertial and Gravitational Mass as an Argument for the General Postulate of Relativity
  4. In What Respects Are the Foundations of Classical Mechanics and of the Special Theory of Relativity Unsatisfactory?
  5. A Few Inferences from the General Theory of Relativity
  6. Behaviour of Clocks and Measuring Rods on a Rotating Body of Reference
  7. Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Continuum
  8. Gaussian Co-ordinates
  9. The Space-Time Continuum of the Special Theory of Relativity Considered as a Euclidean Continuum
  10. The Space-Time Continuum of the General Theory of Relativity Is not a Euclidean Continuum
  11. Exact Formulation of the General Principle of Relativity
  12. The Solution of the Problem of Gravitation on the Basis of the General Principle of Relativity

Part III: Considerations on the Universe as a Whole
  1. Cosmological Difficulties of Newton’s Theory
  2. The Possibility of a “Finite” and Yet “Unbounded” Universe
  3. The Structure of Space According to the General Theory of Relativity

  1. Simple Derivation of the Lorentz Transformation
  2. Minkowski’s Four-Dimensional Space (“World”)
  3. The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity


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