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Einstein in Spain

Einstein in Spain: Relativity and the Recovery of Science

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 391
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  • Book Info
    Einstein in Spain
    Book Description:

    From 1900 to 1924 Spain experienced a stage of vigorous academic freedom and unfettered scientific inquiry that strikingly contrasted with the repressive atmosphere of the periods before and after. Thomas Glick explores this "recovery of science" by focusing on the national discussion provoked by Einstein's trip to Spain in 1923. His visit stimulated a debate on the nature and social value of science that was remarkable in a society so recently awakened to the scientific role in the process of modernization. Einstein's universal appeal created the unlikely occasion for a fascination with science that cut across social classes and previously established domains of discourse.

    The political Right, which in other countries opposed relativity in the name of "traditional" Newtonian science, backed the new theories with surprising enthusiasm. Engineers, a politically conservative group, contributed much of the rank-and-file support for Einstein; physicians, who tended to the Left, also eagerly embraced his ideas, as did a host of mutually antagonistic political groups, including anarcho-syndicalists and bourgeois Catalan nationalists. Professor Glick's analysis of this multidimensional scientific forum provides an unusual amount of information on science in Spain and an opportunity to contrast the Spaniards' reception of Einstein's work and that of other nations during this historical period.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5916-0
    Subjects: Physics, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Spain had been infertile soil for the physical sciences since the late eighteenth century, when the Bourbon monarchs and their enlightened ministers made a valiant and partially successful attempt to import modern physics and chemistry from France and England. In particular, the banner of scientific modernity was borne by an extraordinary group of navigators, under the aegis of Admiral Vicente Tofiño, two of whom were elected to membership in the English Royal Society (José Mendoza y Ríos in 1793, and Felipe Bauzá in 1819). At the same time, modern chemistry was introduced by the French chemists Louis Joseph Proust and...

  6. ONE Spanish Science and the Reception of Relativity
    (pp. 17-73)

    Around 1900 a political consensus favoring vigorous academic freedom emerged at the same time when Spaniards were reassessing national goals in the wake of the Spanish-American War. Modernization was one of the answers to the nation’s most pressing problems, and young academics of the “Generation of 1914,” such as José Ortega y Gasset, took up the cry eagerly. For Ortega, science was the way to regeneration, and, since where there was shouting there would be no science, civil discourse was a necessary precondition for modernization.¹ In the first decade of this century, when the young Ortega was formulating his program...

  7. TWO The Einstein Phenomenon
    (pp. 74-99)

    Einstein’s leap into world renown began on November 6, 1919, when English astronomers announced to a joint extraordinary meeting of the Royal Astronomical and Royal Society that observations of the total eclipse of the sun on May 29 had confirmed Einstein’s prediction, in the General Theory of relativity, that light rays passing in the vicinity of a great mass would be deflected by the force of its gravity. The news was quickly seized upon by the British press, particularly the LondonTimes, which, the very next day, proclaimed that a scientific revolution had occurred and Newton had been overthrown. In...

  8. THREE Barcelona: Einstein and Catalan Nationalism
    (pp. 100-122)

    In his two weeks in Spain, Einstein interacted with a great many persons, both scientists and other intellectuals. Typical of his personality, these interactions were mainly one-way, affecting the Spanish interlocutor far more than the visiting physicist. Our understanding of such interactions must, of necessity, be superficial, inasmuch as the press reports, although copious, were for the most part written by nonscientists, and few accounts were left by those with more intimate exchanges with Einstein. Einstein granted few formal interviews, and, as a result, the press coverage was largely superficial, concentrating on mood and gestures rather than substance. Since these...

  9. FOUR Madrid: The Two Aristocracies
    (pp. 123-149)

    Einstein was to spend ten days in the capital. He was met at the station on March 2, 1923 by Cabrera (Fig. 6), whom Einstein recognized “at once.” Cabrera then introduced the members of the welcoming party: Pedro Carrasco, Francisco Vera (mathematician and popular science writer), Josep Maria Plans, and other delegates from the Faculty of Sciences, as well as the anatomist Julián Calleja, who headed a separate delegation of physicians from the College of Physicians. Einstein held in his hands two photograph albums and Fernando Lorente de Nó’s translation of his short volume on the theory of relativity. Einstein...

  10. FIVE The Debate over Relativity in the 1920s
    (pp. 150-187)

    During and after Einstein’s visit, debate over the scientific and philosophical meanings of relativity involved virtually every sector of the Spanish intelligentsia. In this chapter we will consider scientific polemics and the philosophical and religious discussions.

    Comas was the leading anti-relativist in the higher echelons of Spanish science and the only one to propose an alternate theory. He was in the line of those who, like Walter Ritz, attempted to solve the contradiction between the classical theory of the relativity of motion and the electrodynamics of Maxwell and Lorentz in a way diametrically opposed to Einstein’s approach. Instead of using...

  11. SIX Relativity and Spanish Engineers: The Scientific Middle Class
    (pp. 188-237)

    If the Spanish relativists pursued little or no research in relativistic physics or mathematics but limited their participation to “high-brow” syntheses, then we must ask at what audience these works were directed. The syntheses produced by Cabrera, Plans, and Terradas were aimed at integrating the theory of relativity with the corpus of mathematical physics available to Spanish readers. But at what level? These works, even Terradas’s article for the popular Espasa-Calpe encyclopedia, were not for “popular” consumption. They were directed at persons with scientific education. But research scientists or those who held chairs of mathematics or physics hardly constituted an...

  12. SEVEN The Slave at the Sermon: Einstein and the Spanish Intelligentsia
    (pp. 238-275)

    The distinction between the “scientific middle class” and the educated class in general was frequently a tenuous one. It is clear that some educated laymen may well have caught the broader implications of relativity in a much more sophisticated and profound manner than did geometrical practitioners. The reason for distinguishing between the two is that the intellectual referents of each group were quite different. A practical geometrician, no matter how limited his understanding of Einstein may have been, still understood that his message bore some relationship to non-Euclidean geometry or even the ideas of Emilio Herrera. He knew this because...

  13. EIGHT Flow and Transformation of Ideas
    (pp. 276-301)

    The subject of this chapter is a continuation of the last, for here we deal with popular permutations of Einstein’s theory, in particular those that reached the man in the street. There are few documented responses at this level, but notions broadly held at the popular level are reckoned to have been reflected in cartoons and in the writing of humorists. Since such perceptions were typically based on elements of Einstein’s ideas disarticulated from their scientific context, they link up with similar concepts expressed by members of the intelligentsia. The appropriation of disarticulated ideas is a normal way (perhapsthe...

  14. NINE After Einstein’s Visit
    (pp. 302-322)

    The discussion of relativity in Spain before, during, and just after Einstein’s visit demonstrated that Spaniards of virtually all ideological persuasions understood both that the physicist had raised important questions about the cosmos and that these issues could be debated publicly without doing violence to one’s political or social ideology. But that consensus did not last long. On January 28, 1930, the dictator Primo de Rivera resigned and fled the country in the face of popular unrest. Subsequently, the strong showing of Republican and Socialist candidates in the municipal elections of April 12, 1931, revealed the great strength of sentiment...

  15. APPENDIX 1 Einstein’s Travel Diary for Spain, 1923
    (pp. 325-326)
  16. APPENDIX 2 German Consular Reports of Einstein’s Trip to Spain
    (pp. 327-331)
  17. APPENDIX 3 Einstein’s Madrid Lectures on Relativity
    (pp. 332-356)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 357-376)
  19. Index
    (pp. 377-391)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 392-392)