BBC: Albert Einstein Documentary HD (1h 30m)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_yk45m4E3M (start at 44 min)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA9ZA7r0u1k (start at 44 min)
General relativity: 100 years of the most beautiful theory ever created
The cases of Hilbert and Noether are interesting enough to
dwell on. In the Spring of 1915, Hilbert invited Einstein to
give some lectures at the university at Gottingen, which
had become the center of mathematics in Germany and perhaps
in the whole Western world. Einstein and Grossmann had
published papers expounding a preliminary version of his new
theory of gravity, and as Einstein was continuing to work on
it Hilbert wanted to know more. He was already familiar with
the exotic (to Einstein) mathematics involved (having
developed further some of it himself), so as soon as he was
able to achieve some understanding of the physics, Hilbert
was off and running.
At first, Einstein was delighted in finding a new
intellectual companion in Hilbert, someone who was able to
instantly grasp the core of the problem and tackle it
head-on. As he wrote in a letter near the end of November
1915, "The theory is beautiful beyond comparison. However,
only one colleague has really understood it", referring to
Hilbert. Einstein considered this famed mathematician a
genuine "comrade of conviction" who shared his attitude
about science as transcending national and ethnic
boundaries. That stance might seem obvious today, but it
could be considered unpatriotic in the Germany of WWI.
But this delight soon turned to resentment as a kind of race
ensued, as least in Einstein's imagination, to write down
the correct set of equations to describe the gravitational
field. Both men understood that this was something big, and
the stakes were high. Einstein carried on an intense
correspondence with Hilbert and other scientists during the
struggle. He became horrified that, after his years of
striving, someone else might be able to hijack his work and
claim credit for the complete and final theory of gravity.
As he said in the same letter, "In my personal experience I
have hardly come to know the wretchedness of mankind better
than as a result of this theory and everything connected to
it." In a note a few days after that to Michele Besso,
Einstein continued. "My colleagues are acting hideously in
this affair." For his part, Hilbert had already made the
remark that would later become somewhat infamous: "physics
is much too hard for physicists."
While author David Rowe rightfully points out we "know
almost nothing about what Einstein and Hilbert talked about
during the physicist's week in Gottingen," Hilbert did send
off a manuscript with the correct, final field equations
that comprised the fundamental content of the theory of
general relativity. And he did so almost simultaneously with
Einstein's public presentation of these equations. The
debate over priority is still being waged by historians, but
Einstein and Hilbert had forgotten their differences and
moved on almost immediately. In fact, Hilbert relinquished
any claim to priority and gave unqualified credit for the
theory to the physicist. "Every boy in the streets of
Gottingen understands more about four-dimensional geometry
than Einstein. Yet, in spite of that, Einstein did the work
and not the mathematicians."
In the case of Emmy Noether, it is even more difficult to
ascertain the exact contributions she made to general
relativity. Mathematical research at the time was largely a
verbal affair, with formal publication almost an
afterthought, and Noether was especially fond of the
conversational approach to math. Hilbert had called her to
Gottingen for particular help with the immediate aftermath
of the discovery of the field equations to work on the very
difficult issue of the conservation of energy in general
relativity. (This problem is so tricky that it was only in
1981 that Edward Witten was able to prove that the energy
derived from the gravitational field equations is guaranteed
to be positive.)
(Emmy) Noether's Theorem may be the most important
theoretical result in modern physics.
Correspondence at the time from and to Einstein, including
several references to a lost set of notes by Noether, make
it clear that she provided critical help and tutelage during
the frenzied months leading up to the final appearance of
the field equations. But even more important was that her
work on the energy problem led to her discovery of the
far-reaching result that we now call Noether's theorem and
to a mature mathematical understanding of the gravitational
No matter how clear Einstein's vision might have been about
what the physical content of a relativistic theory of
gravity should be, there was no theory until there was a set
of equations that expressed those ideas and that satisfied
certain mathematical and physical demands of consistency.
This is why Einstein struggled for so many years to put his
ideas into a form that would be worthy of the name "theory."
And it's the best explanation why general relativity should
rightfully be credited to a small handful of authors rather
than just Einstein himself.
The matter of the correct form of the gravitational field
equations aside, it is still true that the formulation of
the equivalence principle, the seminal thought experiments,
and therefore the initial physical impetus for general
relativity was certainly Einstein's alone.
Let's Recall with Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Amazon: Newton's Principia for the Common Reader (Physics)
by S. Chandrasekhar
The Principia (1687) reigned supreme for more than 200 years.
For Newton, time and space were absolute.
Along comes Einstein and look what happened in 1905.
ON THE ELECTRODYNAMICS OF MOVING BODIES
By A. Einstein
June 30, 1905