Talk:History of general relativity

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In fact, the viability of any approach that changes the field equations is doubtful due to a proof published in the 1990s that only the Einstein Field Equations can provide both self-consistency and local consistency with special relativity.

Can whoever added this please provide a reference? It seems doubtful. –Joke137 13:53, 6 September 2005 (UTC)

It is something that I learned about in a relativity class. I do not recall that exact reference, and my initial searches have come up empty. Feel free to remove it if you like, although I will ask Chris Hillman about this. It may be that this proof has been disproven in the last 5 years. --EMS | Talk 04:06, 8 September 2005 (UTC)
Whoa, I guess I haven't been paying attention, but I agree with Joke137 that this claim is certainly not correct as stated. There 'are' lots of theorems to the effect that GTR is uniquely nice in various ways, but they tend to be a bit tricky to state correctly, and they certainly should not be stated without giving good citations. EMS, can you find the citation. Maybe ask your former Professor for help? Or ask in sci.physics.research? I am guessing you might have garbled some remarks which can be found in Weinberg. ---CH (talk) 16:51, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
Chris - I asked you about this after Joke challenged me on it, and you also came up empty. So it got tossed. I would love to know what that professor was talking about, but he has left U. Md and I am not longer able to contact him. I should have taken my previous inability to document this as a red flag, but thought that the source was trustworthy. Now I know better. --EMS | Talk 04:56, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

Einstein and Hilbert[edit]

I am going to stay with the pro-Einstein text that is currently present until and unless I am given good reason to do otherwise. I have amended it somewhat for clarity, and added a reference to that relativity priority disputes article, but I see not reason to admit the incorrect (as Einstein presented the equations in an article and not a lecture) and ambiguous edit that Alvestrand did.

I also have my doubts about relativity priority disputes: It impresses me and being somewhat POV against Einstein, and also needs some cleanup (for example through the use of the <ref> and <reference> tags for handling notes.) I actually think that the material itself is OK, but there needs to be some discussion as to status of these disputes. --EMS | Talk 21:01, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

Believe me, it's been hard to get the disputes page to stay reasonably neutral in tone while documenting what I hope are some of the more vicious attacks found in recent science history!
With regard to the current text, I'll paste it here with notes on why I think it needs changing:
Although Einstein is credited with finding the field equations, the German mathematician David Hilbert published them in an article submitted before Einstein had submitted his own.
It is disputed whether they were in the article on the submission date. Einstein's presentation date was in a lecture; it is far more certain that he presented those equations on that date. His article was later. But all records show that Hilbert and Einstein exchanged letters about the work a week or so before the lecture.
This has resulted in accusations of plagiarism against Einstein, and assertions that the field equations should be called the "Einstein-Hilbert field equations".
This is unsourced. See also Einstein-Hilbert action, which uses both names - I believe it's not alone.
However, Hilbert did not press his claim for priority,
Debated, and hotly so. Search talk pages for "MEINER THEORIE".
and recent research has shown that Einstein submitted the correct equations before Hilbert amended his own work to include them. This suggets that Einstein developed the correct field equations first, and that Hilbert may have learned of them afterwards through his correspondence with Einstein. (Reference: Science 14 November 1997: Vol. 278. no. 5341, pp. 1270 - 1273 [1])
This article's evidence and conclusions is debated - especially by Friedwart Winterberg and Daniela Wuensch. It also needs to be cited by title, since that's how it's most generally known - and the URL leads to an "access denied" page if you don't have a subscription.
My conclusion is that it's best to say less here and point to the disputes page - there are far too many details that people will use as bludgeons while screaming "biased" if you get even one of them even slightly wrong. But obviously we don't have a consensus on that yet.... --Alvestrand 22:51, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
Right now I would like some time to ponder this business. I have run across a number of instances of "Einstein-Hilbert equations", but I will not contest the allegation that I too often write first and cite later. In any case, you are asking me to accept a minor paradigm shift on what to me is a fairly important point. So even a minor shift needs to be carefully considered.
Let me put it to you this way: If I accept your change then I am implicitly agreeing to defend it. If that is to be the case, then I want to be comfortable that your view (or rather chosen presentation of the views) is genuinely more accurate than mine, and is genuinely defensible. Another possibility is that I will yield to a consensus of other editors (and there are others around who should and hopefully soon will have a say in this issue). In the meantime, I will maintain my pro-Einstein stance until I am surer of the sitation and of yourself. I the meantime, I don't see relativity priority disputes as being a page that am willing to hang my hat on, at least not yet. --EMS | Talk 00:15, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

For those who have watched this page but not Relativity priority disputes: the necessary context of the writing of that page is the behavoiur of User:Licorne, who has pushed a particular POV with such force that he's currently the subject of Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Licorne. That has led to an editing environment where people (except Licorne) have done a lot of checking and quoting of sources, but hesitate to indulge in bouts of creative writing for fear of having to spend useless cycles commenting on Licorne's comments on their edits (see RFA page for examples). Not healthy. A lot of interesting material, both primary and secondary, has come to light and been appropriately commented and referenced - but all the pages involved in the dispute have, as a result, become quite thin on drawing strong conclusions. Hope this helps the understanding on how things came to read that way - it MAY become better once the RFA concludes. --Alvestrand 09:43, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Then perhaps we should give things a little time and let the dust settle. The state of this article is that up until now I have had no trouble defending the pro-Einstein view, and do not yet see a good case as to why I should either change my stance or (more importantly) the article's stance. --EMS | Talk 06:33, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

I am studying the history of both the relativities, special and general and I find that the account listed in here is extremely inadequate. I will keep filling things in as I read them.

Why develop a new theory when classical mechanics was fine?[edit]

The development of general relativity began in 1907 with the publication of an article by Albert Einstein on acceleration under special relativity.

Do we know why Einstein was dissatisfied with classical mechanics? Was there an observation that he couldn't explain? Was classical mechanics unnecessarily complicated? The article doesn't make clear what motivated his investigation; it just says it began with a publication which is not very satisfactory. Pgr94 (talk) 14:20, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

I've included a few words on the motivation of Einstein. --D.H (talk) 17:21, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

GR and QM[edit]

However, general relativity and quantum mechanics (a theory that has been experimentally verified more than GR) are known to be inconsistent.

What does it mean to be "verified more"? Can you provide a source for the statement that GR is inconsistent with QM? In my understanding, it is a different type of theory, hence the statement should possibly be altered to "quantum field theory corresponding to GR has not been found yet". --J.A —Preceding undated comment added 18:50, 6 November 2009 (UTC).


How is it possible that this article DOES NOT CITE Einstein's original papers??? Risible. (I came here looking for them). I also see reference 5 is to this article, and that many of the references have no dates. Whats up with that? How is it possible that Wikipedia allows such slop? Additionally, devoting an entire paragraph to a false story of a conversation Eddington did not have is inappropriate, imho. .. OK. I went to and found the following: “Zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie” Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin). Sitzungsberichte (1915): 778–786 [Vol. 6, Doc. 21, 214–224; trans. 98–107] Dated: 4 November 1915 and “Zur allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie (Nachtrag)” ← [I think this translates as glossary (?) ] Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin). Sitzungsberichte (1915): 799–801 [Vol. 6, Doc. 22, 225–229; trans. 108–110] Dated: 11 November 1915 Sequentially published. If anyone can confirm that these are indeed the critical 1915 papers, please feel free to add them - or - if appropriate where I got them: Thanks. (If I were sure that these are the correct citations, I would do it myself...) (talk) 14:44, 23 December 2012 (UTC)

Merger proposal[edit]

As a result of an earlier discussion, the contents of Golden age of general relativity were pasted into this article, but the source article was not removed. Part of the cut and paste was the timeline, which only covers a couple of decades and looks out of place here. I propose to finish the merger, but add the timeline to Timeline of gravitational physics and relativity and remove it from this article. RockMagnetist (talk) 21:55, 20 March 2013 (UTC)


General relativity is alive and well as a branch of modern physics; reference to a golden age connotes that its time has come and gone. As stated at Golden age#Present-day usage:

Invariably, the term "Golden Age" is bestowed retroactively, when the period in question has ended and is compared with what followed in the specific field discussed.

Though a reference has been given for this usage, perpetuation of an ill-founded phrase detracts from credibility of this Project. — Rgdboer (talk) 01:57, 9 September 2017 (UTC)