Walther Ritz

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Walther Ritz
Walter Ritz Physicist.gif
Born(1878-02-22)22 February 1878
Died7 July 1909(1909-07-07) (aged 31)
Alma materUniversity of Göttingen
Known forRitz method
Rydberg–Ritz combination principle
AwardsLeconte Prize (1909)
Scientific career

Walther Ritz (22 February 1878 – 7 July 1909) was a Swiss theoretical physicist. He is most famous for his work with Johannes Rydberg on the Rydberg–Ritz combination principle. Ritz is also known for the variational method named after him, the Ritz method.


His father, Raphael Ritz, a native of Wallis, was a well-known landscape and interior scenes artist. His mother was the daughter of the engineer Noerdlinger of Tübingen. Ritz studied in Zurich and Göttingen. His death at the age of 31 has been attributed to tuberculosis, contracted in 1900,[1] and to pleurisy.[2]


Criticism of Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic theory[edit]

Not so well known is the fact that in 1908 Ritz produced a lengthy criticism[3] of Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic theory, in which he contended that the theory's connection with the luminescent ether (see Lorentz ether theory) made it "essentially inappropriate to express the comprehensive laws for the propagation of electrodynamic actions."

Ritz pointed out seven problems with Maxwell–Lorentz electromagnetic field equations:

  • Electric and magnetic forces really express relations about space and time and should be replaced with non-instantaneous elementary actions.
  • Advanced potentials don't exist (and their erroneous use led to the Rayleigh–Jeans ultraviolet catastrophe).
  • Localization of energy in the ether is vague.
  • It is impossible to reduce gravity to the same notions.
  • The unacceptable inequality of action and reaction is brought about by the concept of absolute motion with respect to the ether.
  • Apparent relativistic mass increase is amenable to different interpretations.
  • The use of absolute coordinates, if independent of all motions of matter, requires throwing away the time honored use of Galilean relativity and our notions of rigid ponderable bodies.

Instead he indicated that light is not propagated (in a medium) but is projected.



  1. ^ Forman, P., Dictionary of Scientific Biography XI, 475, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1975.
  2. ^ Gesammelte Werke – Walther Ritz – OEuvres, Societe suisse de physique, Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1911, page viii.
  3. ^ Ritz, Walter (1908), "Recherches critiques sur l'Électrodynamique Générale", Annales de Chimie et de Physique 13: 145–275, Page 172.
  • Jean-Claude Pont (ed.) Le Destin Douloureux de Walther Ritz, physicien théoricien de génie, Sion: Archives de l'Etat de Valais, 2012 (= Proceedings of the International Conference in Honor of Walther Ritz's 100th Anniversary).

External links[edit]

  • Abbreviated Biographical Sketch of Walter Ritz
  • Critical Researches on General Electrodynamics, Walter Ritz, 1908, English translation
  • Ritz, Einstein and the Emission Hypothesis
  • Gander, Martin J.; Wanner, Gerhard (2012). "From Euler, Ritz, and Galerkin to Modern Computing". SIAM Review. 54 (4): 627–666. doi:10.1137/100804036.