Max Bernhard Weinstein

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1910 photo of German physicist Max Bernhard Weinstein.jpg

Max Bernhard Weinstein (1 September 1852 in Kaunas,[1] Vilna Governorate – 25 March 1918) was a German physicist and philosopher. He is best known as an opponent of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and for having written a broad examination of the theological theory of Pandeism.

The Russian-born[2] Weinstein translated James Clerk Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism into German in 1883,[3] and taught courses on electrodynamics at the University of Berlin.[3]

While teaching at the Institute of Physics in the University of Berlin, Weinstein associated with Max Planck, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Hermann von Helmholtz, Ernst Pringsheim, Sr., Wilhelm Wien, Carl A. Paalzow of the Technische Hochschule in Berlin Charlottenburg, August Kundt, Werner von Siemens, theologian Adolph von Siemens, historian Theodor Mommsen, and Germanic philologist Wilhelm Scherer.[4]

Criticism of Einstein's theory of relativity[edit]

Weinstein was among the first physicists to reject and criticize Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, contending that "general relativity had removed gravity from its earlier isolated position and made it into a "world power" controlling all laws of nature," and warning that "physics and mathematics would have to be revised."[5] It was Weinstein's writings, and their impact driving public sentiment against Einstein's theories, which led astronomer Wilhelm Foerster to convince Einstein to write a more accessible explanation of those ideas.[5] But, one commentator contends that Weinstein's summaries of relativistic physics were "tedious exercises in algebra."[6]

Philosophical writings[edit]

In addition to his work in physics, Weinstein wrote several philosophical works. Welt- und Lebensanschauungen, Hervorgegangen aus Religion, Philosophie und Naturerkenntnis ("World and Life Views, Emerging From Religion, Philosophy and Nature") (1910) examined the origins and development of a great many philosophical areas, including the broadest and most far-reaching examination of the theological theory of Pandeism written up to that point. A critique reviewing Weinstein's work in this field deemed Pandeism to be an 'unsightly' combination of Greek and Latin.[7] The reviewer further criticises Weinstein's broad assertions that such historical philosophers as Scotus Erigena, Anselm of Canterbury, Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno, Mendelssohn, and Lessing all were Pandeists or leaned towards Pandeism.[7]

Philosophically, Weinstein was attracted to what he called a psychical or spiritual monism, which he believed to be comparable to the Pantheism of Spinoza, and wherein the essence of all phenomena could be found entirely in the mind.[8] Though he could see no way around the eventual heat death of the Universe, Weinstein suggested that there existed a fundamental 'psychical energy,' of which a maximum-entropy world would ultimately consist.[8] Weinstein wrote:

From this premise Weinstein reasoned that the world must have both a beginning and an end, and that a supernatural force must have initiated it, and so could bring about its end as well:

Though he rejected theistic formulations regarding such things, Weinstein found the origin of the Universe to be so problematic that he wrote: "As far as I can see, only Spinozist pantheism, among all philosophies, can lead to a satisfactory solution."[8]


  • Handbuch der physikalischen Maassbestimmungen. Zweiter Band. Einheiten und Dimensionen, Messungen für Längen, Massen, Volumina und Dichtigkeiten, Julius Springer, Berlin 1888
  • Die philosophischen Grundlagen der Wissenschaften. Vorlesungen gehalten an der Universität Berlin …, B. G. Teubner, Leipzig und Berlin 1906
  • Welt- und Lebensanschauungen hervorgegangen aus Religion, Philosophie und Naturerkenntnis, Johann Ambrosius Barth, Leipzig 1910
  • Die Physik der bewegten Materie und die Relativitätstheorie, Barth, Leipzig 1913
  • Kräfte und Spannungen. Das Gravitations- und Strahlenfeld, Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig 1914


  1. ^ Berlin im Jahr 1852 (Berlin in 1852): "Max Bernhard Weinstein wird in Kowno (Kaunas/Litauen) geboren. Weinstein war seit 1886 Privatdozent für Physik und Geographie an der Berliner Universität." Translation: "Max Bernard Weinstein was born in Kovno (Kaunas / Lithuania). Weinstein was since 1886 a lecturer in physics and geography at the University of Berlin."
  2. ^ The Symbolic Universe: Geometry and Physics 1890-1930, page 104, by Jeremy Gray. 1999.
  3. ^ a b The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, page 33, by Jagdish Mehra and Helmut Rechenberg, 2000.
  4. ^ Review of theology & philosophy - Volume 7, page 576, by Allan Menzies. 1912.
  5. ^ a b Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity, page 102, by Jeffrey Crelinsten. 2006.
  6. ^ Peter Galison, Science and Society: The History of Modern Physical Science in the Twentieth Century, p. 288, 2001.
  7. ^ a b Otto Kirn, reviewer, Welt- und Lebensanschauungen, Hervorgegangen aus Religion, Philosophie und Naturerkenntnis ("World and Life Views, Emerging From Religion, Philosophy and Nature") in Emil Schürer, Adolf von Harnack, editors, Theologische Literaturzeitung ("Theological Literature Journal"), Volume 35, column 827 (1910): "Dem Verfasser hat anscheinend die Einteilung: religiöse, rationale und naturwissenschaftlich fundierte Weltanschauungen vorgeschwebt; er hat sie dann aber seinem Material gegenüber schwer durchführbar gefunden und durch die mitgeteilte ersetzt, die das Prinzip der Einteilung nur noch dunkel durchschimmern läßt. Damit hängt wohl auch das vom Verfasser gebildete unschöne griechisch-lateinische Mischwort des ,Pandeismus' zusammen. Nach S. 228 versteht er darunter im Unterschied von dem mehr metaphysisch gearteten Pantheismus einen ,gesteigerten und vereinheitlichten Animismus', also eine populäre Art religiöser Weltdeutung. Prhagt man lieh dies ein, so erstaunt man über die weite Ausdehnung, die dem Begriff in der Folge gegeben wird. Nach S. 284 ist Scotus Erigena ein ganzer, nach S. 300 Anselm von Canterbury ein ,halber Pandeist'; aber auch bei Nikolaus Cusanus und Giordano Bruno, ja selbst bei Mendelssohn und Lessing wird eine Art von Pandeismus gefunden (S. 306. 321. 346.)." Translation: "The author apparently intended to divide up religious, rational and scientifically based philosophies, but found his material overwhelming, resulting in an effort that can shine through the principle of classification only darkly. This probably is also the source of the unsightly Greek-Latin compound word, 'Pandeism.' At page 228, he understands the difference from the more metaphysical kind of pantheism, an enhanced unified animism that is a popular religious worldview. In remembering this borrowing, we were struck by the vast expanse given the term. According to page 284, Scotus Erigena is one entirely, at p. 300 Anselm of Canterbury is 'half Pandeist'; but also Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno, and even in Mendelssohn and Lessing a kind of Pandeism is found (p. 306 321 346.)".
  8. ^ a b c d e Entropic Creation: Religious Contexts of Thermodynamics and Cosmology, page 131-132, by Helge Kragh. 2008. ISBN 0754664147.

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