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Über den physikalischen Sinn der Relativitätspostulate. A. Einsteins neue und seine ursprüngliche Relativitätstheorie.


Leipzig, Barth, 1917. 8vo. In full black cloth with gilt lettering to spine. In "Annalen der Physik", Vol. 53, 1917. Entire volume offered. Library labels pasted on to front free end papers, stamp to title page. Otherwise fine and clean. Pp. 575-614. [Entire volume: VIII, 650 pp. + 4 plates.]. ¶ First printing of Kretschmann famous paper in which he claimed that Einstein's use of the principle of covariance in General Relativity is vacuous. Kretschmann claimed that the demand that a theory be put in generally covariant form does not limit or restrict the range of acceptable theories, but is simply a challenge to the mathematician's ingenuity. According to Kretschmann, any theory can be put in generally covariant form. Einstein responded that even if general covariance is not a purely formal limitation on acceptable theories, it plays "an important heuristic role" in the formulation of General Relativity.

"Erich Justus Kretschmann (born in Berlin in 1887) had just gotten his doctorate under the guidance of Max Planck by attempting to provide a Lorentzcovariant theory of gravitation. In December 1915 he published a two-part paper with a certain epistemological flavor (Kretschmann, 1915), in which, by relying on the work of Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach, he argued that only "topological" relations encoded in pointcoincidences are directly accessible to experience (Sect. 3). It was only shortly after the paper was distributed that Einstein started to use the expression "point-coincidences" in private correspondence with Paul Ehrenfest, Michele
Besso and Hendrik Lorentz, in order to convince them that solutions of the field-equations that differ only by a coordinate transformation are physically equivalent (Sect. 2). Einstein then abruptly inserted the argument into the
quite different mathematical tradition that had culminated in Ricci and Levi-Civita’s absolute differential calculus (Sect. 4). Kretschmann himself swiftly realized this, and in August 1917 he turned the public version of the pointcoincidence argument against Einstein in a paper that would make him famous [The present].
The paper rediscovered by James L. Anderson in the mid-1960s was destined to become a classic and has therefore been widely discussed in the historical and philosophical literature.

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