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Hilbert’s "World Equations" and His Vision of a Unified Science

Majer, U. and Sauer, T. (2005) Hilbert’s "World Equations" and His Vision of a Unified Science. In: The Universe of General Relativity. Einstein Studies. No.11. Birkhäuser Boston , Boston, MA, pp. 259-276. ISBN 978-0-8176-4380-5.

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In the history of unified field theory, many contributors may be identified, Goldstein and Ritter (2003), Goenner (2004) among them certainly, and perhaps foremost, Einstein. Hilbert’s place in the history of the unified field theory program is also well recognized (see, e.g., the discussion of his work in Vizgin’s study, Vizgin (1994)). But we tend to view the history of physics in which Einstein was involved through that scholarship which has focussed exclusively, or at least predominantly, on Einstein’s work as such. For the case of Einstein’s “later journey,” we believe that many physicists as well as historians would subscribe to Pais’s verdict that “his work on unification was probably all in vain” (Pais 1982, p. 329). The dismissal of Einstein’s efforts over three decades is to some extent supported by Einstein’s own self-image, in his later years, as the “lonesome outsider” working without real appreciation in his golden Princeton cage. Einstein was an original thinker and an influential voice in the debate, and for this reason understanding Einstein’s obsession with the problem of a unified field theory over the last thirty years of his life presents as much of a challenge to the historian as understanding the achievements of his early work.

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Additional Information:© 2005 The Center for Einstein Studies. One of us (T.S.) would like to thank Jim Ritter for illuminating discussions about Einstein and the unified field theory program during our common stay at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. We also thank Diana Buchwald, Dan Kennefick, and Stephen Speicher for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Hilbert’s lectures are quoted with kind permission of the Niedersächsisdie Staats—Und Universitätsbibliothek (Handschriftenabaterlung).
Subject Keywords:Antisymmetric Part; Tensor Density; Electromagnetic Potential; Hamiltonian Principle; Inanimate Nature
Series Name:Einstein Studies
Issue or Number:11
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200609-153340834
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:103807
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Jun 2020 22:50
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:25

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