Item #137 Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation [The Field Equations of Gravitation]. ALBERT EINSTEIN.
Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation [The Field Equations of Gravitation]

Die Feldgleichungen der Gravitation [The Field Equations of Gravitation]

“During the past month I had one of the most exciting and strenuous times of my life, but also one of the most successful ones.” –Einstein, in a letter to Sommerfeld, on November 28, 1915.

“Einstein was in the throes of one of the most concentrated frenzies of scientific creativity in history. He was working, he said, ‘horrendously intensely’”. –Isaacson, referring to Einstein’s work on his November 1915 papers.

FIRST PRINTING IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS IN FINE CONDITION of Einstein’s dramatic paper of November 25, 1915: “a triumphant revision of Newton’s universe,” containing the final form of his gravitational equations for general relativity.

By autumn 1915, Einstein experienced a “crisis” in his work on his gravitational equations and the general theory of relativity, forcing him to abandon several key elements of his earlier work. In October 1915, “Einstein shifted his focus from the physical strategy, which emphasized his feel for the basic principles of physics, and returned to a greater reliance on a mathematical strategy, which made use of the Riemann and Ricci tensors... ‘Einstein’s reversal,’ writes John Norton, ‘parted the waters and led him from bondage into the promised land of general relativity’...

“The result was an exhausting, four-week frenzy during which Einstein wrestled with a succession of tensors, equations, corrections, and updates that he rushed to the Prussian Academy in a flurry of four Thursday lectures. It climaxed, with the triumphant revision of Newton’s universe, at the end of November 1915” (Isaacson).

On November 4, 1915, Einstein presented “to the plenary session of the Prussian Academy a new version of general relativity,” explaining “that he had ‘completely lost confidence’ in the equations [he] proposed in October 1914... His answers were still not entirely right. There was still one flaw, a much smaller one, which he eliminated three weeks later. But the road lay open. He was lyrical. ‘No one who has really grasped it can escape the magic of this [new] theory’” (Pais).

Einstein’s work of November 1915 culminated in his final paper, for on “November 25, 1915, Einstein presented to the physics-mathematics section of the Prussian Academy of Sciences a paper in which ‘finally the general theory of relativity is closed as a logical structure’... The work is done” (Pais). “At last Einstein had equations that were truly covariant and thus a theory that incorporated, at least to his satisfaction, all forms of motion, whether it be inertial, accelerated, rotational, or arbitrary” (Isaacson). Einstein’s later celebrated article in Annalen der Physik (vol 49, 1916) is a more formal and detailed report of the conclusions originally presented in this paper.

See: Isaacson, Einstein, pp. 211-221 and Pais, Subtle is the Lord pp.250-261.

IN: Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Berlin: Verlag der Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1915. Vol. 48/49. 844-847 (November 25). Quarto, original wrappers; custom box.


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