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Asunto:[debunker] Anomalies in the History of Relativity-06
Fecha:Viernes, 16 de Noviembre, 2001  20:51:19 (-0500)
Autor:illu minati <illu03>

included a formula that correctly matched the variation in
the perihelion of the planet Mercury. Pals (1982) has given
the following interesting description of Einstein’s excite-
ment on discovering his explanation of that phenomenon:
This discovery was, I believe, by far the strongest emotional
experience in Einstein’s scientific life, perhaps in all his life.
Nature had spoken to him. He had to be right.

Polkinghorne (1998) quoted Pais’ statement and made the
following comment:
It was a great triumph but, if the answer had not come out right,
the aesthetic power of the equations of general relativity would
have been quite unable in itself to save them from abandonment.
It was indeed nature that had spoken. [Italics in the original.]

It should be pointed out that exactly the same formula as
Einstein published in his general theory for the variation in
the perihelion of Mercury (Einstein, 1916) had been derived
by another scientist several years earlier using another
method based on the assumption of a retarded gravitational
potential (Gerber, 1898). Some of the reactions to Gerber’s
paper have been described by Folsing (1997). In particular,
Folsing described the action of physicist Ernst Gehrcke, who
had written articles against relativity since 1911, as follows:
As no one believed his “refutations.” Gehrcke in 1916 opened a
second front. He unearthed some studies by the Pomeranian
schoolmaster Paul Gerber, who, about the turn of the century,
had tried to explain the perihelion movement of Mercury by pro-
cedures which were entirely arbitrary and were rightly rejected
by astronomers. By reprinting Gerber’s paper along with his
own comment in Annalen Gehrcke insinuated, first, that
Einstein was a plagiarist and, second, that the problem of the
perihelion precession had been solved before relativity theory.

According to Folsing, Einstein did not publish a reply to
Gehrcke’s paper, but he did publish a brief note (Einstein,
1918) in reply to another paper by Gehrcke (1918); howev-
er, although in that paper Gehrcke had mentioned Gerber’s
formula, Einstein’s reply, which Folsing described as “con-
cise and factual,” did not mention Gerber. Einstein did, how-
ever, mention him in a later article (Einstein, 1920), in
which, after agreeing that Gerber had given the correct for-
mula for the perihelion motion of Mercury before he himself
had done, Einstein continued as follows:
The experts are not only in agreement that Gerber’s derivation
is wrong through and through, but the formula cannot be
obtained as a consequence of the main assumption made by
Gerber. Mr. Gerber’s work is therefore completely useless, an
unsuccessful and erroneous theoretical attempt. I maintain
that the theory of general relativity has provided the first real
explanation of the perihelion motion of Mercury. I have not
mentioned the work by Gerber originally, because I did not
know it when I wrote my work on the perihelion motion of
Mercury; even if I had been aware of it, I would not have had
any reason to mention it.

In the same article, Einstein referred to criticism of the
eclipse observations as follows:
Mr. Gehrke in his lecture has made the masterfully executed
English measurements of the deflection of light by the sun appear
in a bad light by mentioning the three independent groups only one
of which, because of aberration of the heliograph mirror, gave
erroneous results. He has suppressed the fact that the English
astronomers themselves in their official report considered the
results as a brilliant confirmation of the theory of general relativity.

In view of the many subsequent criticisms of the eclipse
results, it appears that the confirmation of the theory may
not have been as brilliant as those who obtained the
results believed. It also seems unfortunate that Einstein
based his claim of Gerber’s errors on an appeal to the
authority of “the experts” instead of indicating what was
wrong with his derivation.
Another dismissal of Gerber’s work is mentioned by
Folsing in the following words:
A sharper, crushing reproof came from the respected Munich
astronomer Hugo Ritter von Seeliger, who pointed out that the
Pomeranian schoolmaster had copied things which had long
been known to every worker in the field, and that his so-called
explanation was based on a crude mathematical mistake.

Unfortunately, Seeliger (1918) does not seem to have identi-
fled the crude mistake, and Roseveare (1982) has made the fol-
lowing comment on his reply: “Seeliger claimed that Gerber’s
calculation was based on an elementary mistake, though it is
evident that it was Seeliger who was mistaken.” Unfortunately,
also, Folsing does not say why Gerber’s methods, as he put it,
“were entirely arbitrary and were rightly rejected by
astronomers.” It is also unfortunate that Gerber, having died
sometime between 1902 and 1917 (Roseveare, 1982), was not
available to defend his work from Einstein and Seeliger.
Since Gerber’s 1898 paper and Gehrcke’s references to it
are in German, British scientists may not even have been
aware of them in 1919, so that Gerber’s work was not taken
into account in considering possible alternatives to
Einstein’s theory. Simply pointing out Gerber’s earlier deri-
vation of the formula in question is not, of course, accusing
Einstein of plagiarism, since Gerber’s derivation of the for-
mula was different from Einstein’s.
Although Roseveare (1982) gives a sympathetic descrip-
tion of Gerber’s work, he states that his law was refuted, on
two counts. The first count was the fact that Gerber’s theory
is a gravitational theory and says nothing outside that
sphere; this problem is apparently avoided by general rela-
tivity because, according to Roseveare, “this theory already
contains special relativity.” That claim is debatable at least,
and we shall argue below, in our discussion of special relativ-
ity, that special and general relativity are distinct theories;
neither one contains the other. Roseveare continues his
claim that Gerber’s theory has been refuted by saying: “The
second count on which Gerber’s law may be seen to be refut-
ed is the deflection of light rays, though this was at times
rather equivocal.” In view of the above discussion of the
accuracy of the light-deflection results, this reason does not
appear to be decisive. Perhaps it might be interesting to make
an objective reappraisal of Gerber’s work.

The Special Theory of Relativity
Although the above discussion concentrates on the gen-
eral theory of relativity, there are also some anomalies in the
history of the special theory. When the special theory was
first published (Einstein, 1905), it was taken to be similar to
theories of others such as Lorentz, Poincaré, and Larmor. For
example, Whittaker (1953) mentions Einstein’s special
theory in passing in a chapter titled; “The Relativity Theory
of Poincaré, and Lorentz,” in the following words:

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