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Concepts of Simultaneity

, 320 pages

16 line drawings

September 2006



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Concepts of Simultaneity

From Antiquity to Einstein and Beyond

Max Jammer's Concepts of Simultaneity presents a comprehensive, accessible account of the historical development of an important and controversial concept—which played a critical role in initiating modern theoretical physics—from the days of Egyptian hieroglyphs through to Einstein's work in 1905, and beyond. Beginning with the use of the concept of simultaneity in ancient Egypt and in the Bible, the study discusses its role in Greek and medieval philosophy as well as its significance in Newtonian physics and in the ideas of Leibniz, Kant, and other classical philosophers. The central theme of Jammer's presentation is a critical analysis of the use of this concept by philosophers of science, like Poincaré, and its significant role in inaugurating modern theoretical physics in Einstein's special theory of relativity. Particular attention is paid to the philosophical problem of whether the notion of distant simultaneity presents a factual reality or only a hypothetical convention. The study concludes with an analysis of simultaneity's importance in general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Max Jammer, who was personally acquainted with Albert Einstein while at Princeton, is former president and professor emeritus of Bar-Ilan University and author of a number of important books, mainly in the philosophy of physics. Among his numerous awards are the Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the much coveted Israel Prize.

"The study forms a comprehensive history of the concept of simultaneity from earliest antiquity to the present, the first with such a historical sweep. In addition, Max Jammer has done an invaluable service in bringing together in an impressive manner material related to the extended controversies associated with the concept of simultaneity within 20th-century physics and philosophy of physics."

" Concepts of Simultaneity excels at clearly explaining subtle but important issues. The book is incisive and valuable; it will appeal not only to historians and philosophers of physics but also to physicists drawn to the elements of special relativity."

"This interesting, carefully crafted analysis of some fundamental ideas belongs in good college library collections... Highly recommended."

" Concepts of Simultaneity provides a welcome survey of the development of our views and theories of simultaneity, bringing together sources in history, physics and philosophy. The book covers an impressive array of material."

"The view of simultaneity presented by Max Jammer is almost breathtaking... I think Jammer has written a valuable book."

"Presents a very well-researched and thought-provoking analysis of the topic."

"I highly recommend the book."

"Jammer's book is a significant contribution to the literature on the physics of time and merits the attention of both physicists and philosophers of science."

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