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Did Albert Einstein come up with his theories all by himself?


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I remember asking this somewhere on the internet and people said that Einstein had a lot of help from other people in formulating his theories (that's all I remember). Is this true or not? Can't find much information online or don't know exactly what to search for.

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33 minutes ago, Alex Mercer said:

I remember asking this somewhere on the internet and people said that Einstein had a lot of help from other people in formulating his theories (that's all I remember). Is this true or not? Can't find much information online or don't know exactly what to search for.

Einstein simply put together the current theoretical knowledge and data of the time, along of course with his own intuition to come up with SR/GR.

Remember what another great scientist said 250 years earlier?..."I see as far as I do because I stand on the shoulders of giants" Albert did the same.

Edited by beecee
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4 hours ago, Alex Mercer said:

I remember asking this somewhere on the internet and people said that Einstein had a lot of help from other people in formulating his theories (that's all I remember). Is this true or not? Can't find much information online or don't know exactly what to search for.

 

To answer your question is is instructive compare Einstein and Newton.

 

In his early career, Einstein did not get on well with the academic establishment so was forced to work part time by himself on his own subjects.
Fortunately he had a sympathetic boss where he worked in the Patent Office.

It was here he used the experimental results of others, for he was a theorist, combined with the quite extensive maths and physics he already knew, to develop his Special Theory of Relativity. It was called special, not because it was the best, but because its application was stricltly limited.

At all times he was a Physicist who used the maths developed by others. He developed no new maths of his own.

He was, however, very keenly aware of the limits of his special theory and wanted to extend this further in Physics.
Here he was helped by some eminent mathematicians of his day. Minkowski and Weyl amongs others.
Here to he created his famous shorthand notation for some of the nw maths they helped him adopt. This was the Einstein Summation Convention. Not new, but some say easier to work with.
And here he did indeed extend his special theory much much further to the genral theory we know know.

Elsewhere, and this is how he gained his Doctorate and Nobel prize, he used existing maths to revise and extend some statistical Physics on Brownian motion and what we now call Bose- Einstein statistics.

 

On the other hand, Newton not only introduced a wide range of theoretical physics, he was a great experimenter and also had to invent most the maths he needed to write it all down. He did not rely on the maths that existed in his day, although he took full cognisance of the work of others around his time. He, like Einstein and many other great scientists, was aware of the limitations of his theories and thought deeply about them. But he did not necessarily strive to overcome them.
He did, however invent the mathematical method of successively better and better approximations that we use today in so many of our calculations, under the general heading of 'Numerical Methods'.

 

does this help ?

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5 hours ago, Alex Mercer said:

I remember asking this somewhere on the internet and people said that Einstein had a lot of help from other people in formulating his theories (that's all I remember). Is this true or not? Can't find much information online or don't know exactly what to search for.

You must distinguish between the many different contributions E made to physics. But I assume you mean relativity: special- and general relativity.

For special relativity, the time was ripe for its discovery. Several physicists before (Fitzgerald, Lorentz, Poincaré, and several others) already guessed the correct formulas. It was even Poincaré that called the Lorentz transformations that way. But Fitzgerald and Lorentz used more or less ad hoc assumptions to derive them, e.g to explain the null result of the Michelson-Morley experiment. Poincaré's views already circled around the concept of 'relativity', but could not overcome the idea that there is no absolute frame of reference (i.e. a frame that is in absolute rest). E had some help of friends, but their role was more or less that of a 'resonance board'. Explaining his views and problems, E came at the solution himself.

It is different in general relativity. E saw an inconsistency between his own theory of special relativity and Newton's law of gravity. He discovered after a few years that he needed descriptions of curved spaces, and asked his old friend Marcel Grossman how curved spaces could be described mathematically, and it was he who introduced E to differential geometry, of which E found that it was 'notoriously difficult'. in 1915, E got stuck, and visited David Hilbert, a specialist in differential geometry. After their discussion E found the solution in a few weeks, at more or less the same time as Hilbert found it too. But Hilbert later said, humorously, 'Every street boy in Göttingen knows more about differential geometry than Einstein: but Einstein had the physical intuitions that led him to the right formulation of the problem'.

There are articles in Wikipedia about the development of the 2 RTs:

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_special_relativity

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_general_relativity

 

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1 hour ago, Country Boy said:

Of course, Henri Poincare had theories very similar to Einstein's

The question is, do you know what questions to ask?

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