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Einstein, his theories, and his aesthetic considerations. (English) Zbl 1194.01031
Summary: This article deals with the question whether aesthetic considerations affected Einstein in formulating both his theories of relativity. The opinions of philosophers and historians alike are divided on this matter. Thus, Gerald Holton supports the view that Einstein employed aesthetic considerations in formulating his theory of special relativity whereas Jim shelton opposes it, one of his reasons being that Einstein did not mention such considerations. The other theory, namely, that of general relativity, is discussed by John D. Norton. He asserts that the successful completion of this theory was due to Einstein’s adherence to mathematical simplicity resulting from experience, as Einstein himself stated, and not from an aesthetic drive, to which he did not refer. The present work attempts to overcome this deficiency indirectly by investigating Einstein’s aesthetic awareness and its consequences for his work. It is found that this awareness was imbedded in his perception of nature and is linked to the criteria (such as simplicity) that guided him informulating his theories. The conclusion thus reached is that aesthetic considerations did play a role in Einstein’s endeavour, contrary to the assertions of Shelton and Norton.

MSC:
01A60 History of mathematics in the 20th century
81-03 History of quantum theory
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