Item #120 Sur la Dynamique de l’Electron [On the Dynamics of the Electron]. HENRI POINCARÉ.
Sur la Dynamique de l’Electron [On the Dynamics of the Electron]

Sur la Dynamique de l’Electron [On the Dynamics of the Electron]

“It seems that this impossibility to disclose experimentally the absolute motion of the earth is a general law of nature; we are led naturally to admit this law, which we shall call the Postulate of Relativity, and to admit it unrestrictedly.” -Poincaré

FIRST EDITIONS IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS of Poincaré’s masterwork, his two papers containing, among other important discoveries, his theory of relativity (developed independently and simultaneously with Einstein). Includes the “note” in Comptes Rendus and the long “memoir” in the rare journal Rendiconti Circolo Matematico di Palermo.

“Poincaré published in 1905 a note (followed by an extended memoir) on the dynamics of the electron, containing the whole mathematics of special relativity. Historians of science still passionately discuss about the priority between Einstein and Poincaré, and if one follows some recent publications, Hercule Poireau could be the only one able to uncover the whole story. Curiously, the mathematician Poincaré reached relativistic kinematics via Maxwell electromagnetic theory, while the physicist Einstein used an axiomatic method. But is is unquestionable that Poincaré anticipated the so-called Minkowski space-time.” (Jean Mawhin, “Henri Poincaré. A Life in the Service of Science”).

As noted in Pais, “The solution anticipated by Poincaré was given by Einstein in his memoir of 1905 on special relativity. He accomplished the revolution which Poincaré had foreseen and stated at a moment when the development of physics seemed to lead to an impasse” (Pais, Subtle is the Lord, 168).

Particle Physics: One Hundred Years of Discoveries: [citing both papers] “Introduction of the relativity principle as an overall law of nature valid for all forces including the gravitational one. Formulation of the equation of the relativistic mechanics and transformation laws for electromagnetic field and current. Establishing of the Lorentz group as a symmetry group of nature. First proposal to modify Newtonian theory of gravity on the basis of the relativity principle. Prediction of the gravitational waves propagating with the speed of light.”

The Comptes Rendu 1905 paper is essentially a short summary of the information contained in the second, much longer paper published in the somewhat obscure Italian journal Rendiconti Circolo Matematico di Palermo.

IN: Comptes Rendus, Vol. 140, No., 23, 5 June 1905, p1504-1508; IN: Rendiconti Circolo Matematico di Palermo, Vol. 21, No. 1, p 129-176. Comptes Rendus: Quarto, original wrappers. Spine perished, but overall a superb copy in the extremely rare and fragile wrappers. Rendiconti: Octavo, original wrappers. Housed in custom box. Spine perished, abrasions (from probably tape removal) on front wrapper near spine; old tape on rear wrapper near spine; extremely scarce.

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