Washington Post highlights historic clash between Einstein and Bergson on the nature of time

2015_Einstein_bannerWith the 100th anniversary of the general theory of relativity coming up in November, Einstein is popping up everywhere. Yesterday’s Washington Post ran a terrific feature on Einstein books, including three of our own: Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn’s The Road to Relativity, Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, and Jimena Canales’s The Physicist and the Philosopher.

One of the most fascinating chapters of Einstein’s public life revolves around an encounter he had with Henri Bergson, the renowned philosopher, on April 6, 1922, in Paris. It was on this day that Einstein and Bergson publicly debated the nature of time, touching off a clash of worldviews between science and the humanities that persists today. The philosopher Bergson argued that time was not merely mechanical, and should be seen in terms of lived experience; Einstein dismissed Bergson’s psychological notions as irreconcilable with the realities of physics. The Physicist and the Philosopher tells the remarkable story of how this explosive debate between two famous thinkers created intellectual rifts and revolutionized an entire generation’s understanding of time.

Nancy Szokan’s piece in Washington Post recounts the dramatic collision:

In The Physicist and the Philosopher, Canales recounts how Bergson challenged Einstein’s theories, arguing that time is not a fourth dimension definable by scientists but a ‘vital impulse,’ the source of creativity. It was an incendiary topic at the time, and it shaped a split between science and humanities that persisted for decades—though Einstein was generally seen as the winner and Bergson is all but forgotten.

Bergson and Einstein, toward the end of their lives, each reflected on his rival’s legacy and dedication to the pursuit of truth: Bergson during the Nazi occupation of Paris and Einstein in the wake of the first hydrogen bomb. Referencing Einstein’s quest for scientific truth, Hanoch Gutfreund recently had an article in the Huffington Post on how Einstein helped shape the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (home of the Albert Einstein Archives online):

On the occasion of the opening of the university, Albert Einstein published a manifesto “The Mission of our University”, which generated interest and excitement in the entire Jewish and academic worlds.

It states: “The opening of our Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, at Jerusalem, is an event which should not only fill us with just pride, but should also inspire us to serious reflection. … A University is a place where the universality of human spirit manifests itself. Science and investigation recognize as their aim the truth only.”

Read the rest here.

November’s big anniversary serves as a reminder of the enduring commitment to scientific investigation that continues at The Hebrew University and centers of learning all over the world today.

Read sample chapters of The Physicist and the Philosopher here, The Road to Relativity here, and Relativity here.

You can find information on the Digital Einstein Papers, an open access site for The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, comprising more than 30,000 unique documents here.

Win a copy of THE ROAD TO RELATIVITY over on the official Einstein Facebook page!

Head on over to the official Facebook page of Albert Einstein to enter to win a copy of The Road to Relativity.

The contest starts today and will run from July 22nd at 11 AM ET until Wednesday, August 5th at 10:59 AM ET.

Einstein Book Contest Flyer 2

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Princeton University Press launches books by Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn

The Road to RelativityOn July 15th, Princeton University Press proudly launched two books by Professor Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn, Relativity and The Road to Relativity, at the 14th Marcel Grossman meeting on relativistic physics in Rome.

The two books are being published to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s formulation of the theory of general relativity in 1915, and so it was fitting to launch them at a conference that demonstrates the ongoing influence of Einstein’s theory on cutting edge work on black holes, pulsars, quantum gravity, and other areas fundamental to our understanding of the universe.

The launch took place at the Besso Foundation, the family home of Albert Einstein’s friend and colleague, Michele Besso, during an exhibition, organized by Professor Gutfreund, of original Einstein letters and notebooks from the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

relativity jacketMore than 150 distinguished physicists and invited guests, including the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, and members of the Besso and Grossman families, listened to Professor Gutfreund and Professor Renn provide a compelling overview of their research and of the new insights it has brought to the history of the development of general relativity. Professor Gutfreund stressed the fundamental insights into Einstein’s work provided by the rich Archives in Jerusalem, while Renn dismissed the notion of Albert Einstein as an isolated and idiosyncratic genius, stressing his network of collaborators and colleagues, including Besso.


Renn and Gutfreund

Professor Hanoch Gutfreund and Jürgen Renn at the book launch in Rome

Photo from Renn and Gutfreund launch

Launch for Relativity and The Road to Relativity, at the 14th Marcel Grossman meeting on relativistic physics in Rome


History & Philosophy of Science 2015 Catalog

Our History & Philosophy of Science 2015 catalog is now available.

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Be sure to check out The Quotable Feynman, a collection of about 500 quotations from Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman (1918-88), compiled by his daughter, Michelle Feynman. Read it cover-to-cover or flip to a specific section, from childhood to religion, from family to politics.

Looking for a comprehensive and authoritative guide to everything Albert Einstein? An Einstein Encyclopedia is your indispensible resource. The book contains entries on a range of topics, including his romantic relationships, hobbies, educational affiliations, and friends. Written by three leading Einstein scholars, researchers and those with a casual curiosity alike will find much to interest them. And don’t forget to scroll to page 3 of the catalog for a wealth of additional Einstein-related titles, including Relativity: 100th Anniversary Edition and Einstein and the Quantum.

Finally, the richly illustrated Mathematics and Art is written by Lynn Gamwell, a cultural historian of both topics. Gamwell shows how mathematics and art have informed and influenced one another from antiquity to the present.

We invite you to look through our catalog and learn about many more new titles in History & Philosophy of Science.

If you’d like updates on new titles sent directly to your inbox, subscribe here.

A Mere Philosopher?

The Physicist and the Philosopher by Jimena CanalesOn the 6th of April, 1922, two men met at the Société française de philosophie to discuss relativity and the nature of time. One was the winner of the previous year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, Albert Einstein, renowned for a series of extraordinary innovations in scientific theory. The other was the French philosopher, Henri Bergson. In The Physicist and the Philosopher, Jimena Canales recounts the events of that meeting, and traces the public controversy that unfolded over the years that followed. Bergson was perceived to have lost the debate and, more generally, philosophy to have lost the authority to speak on matters of science.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of that loss is that it is hard to imagine an equivalent meeting today, the great physicist and the great philosopher debating as equals. While the physical sciences enjoy unprecedented prestige and funding on university campuses, many philosophy departments face cutbacks. Yet less than a century ago, Henri Bergson enjoyed enormous celebrity. His lecture at Columbia University in 1913 resulted in the first traffic jam ever seen on Broadway. His work was translated into multiple languages, influencing not only his fellow philosophers but also artists and writers (Willa Cather named one of her characters after Bergson). His writings on evolutionary theory earned him the condemnation of the Catholic Church. Students were crowded out of his classes at the Collège de France by the curious public.

The young Bergson showed promise in mathematics, but chose instead to study humanities at the École Normale. His disappointed math teacher commented “you could have been a mathematician; you will be a mere philosopher” — a harbinger of later developments? Einstein and his supporters attacked Bergson’s understanding of relativity and asserted that philosophy had no part to play in grasping the nature of time. Bergson countered that, on the contrary, it was he who had been misunderstood, but to no avail: the Einstein/Bergson debate set the tone for a debate on the relationship between philosophy and the sciences that continues to this day. At a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Philosophy Now, biologist Lewis Wolpert dismissed philosophy as “irrelevant” to science. In this, do we hear an echo of Einstein’s claim that time can be understood either psychologically or physically, but not philosophically?

Spotlight on…Scientists

Nikola Tesla, by W. Bernard Carlson

Nikola Tesla
by W. Bernard Carlson

Genius is no guarantee of public recognition. In this post we look at the changing fortunes and reputations of three very different scientists: Alan Turing, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.

With the success of the recent movie, the Imitation Game (based on Andrew Hodges’ acclaimed biography Alan Turing: The Enigma), it’s easy to forget that for decades after his death, Turing’s name was known only to computer scientists. His conviction for homosexual activity in 1950s Britain, his presumed suicide in 1954, and the veil of secrecy drawn over his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War combined to obscure his importance as one of the founders of computer science and artificial intelligence. The gradual change in public attitudes towards homosexuality and the increasing centrality of computers to our daily lives have done much to restore his reputation posthumously. Turing received an official apology in 2009, followed by a royal pardon in 2013.

Despite enjoying celebrity in his own lifetime, Nikola Tesla’s reputation declined rapidly after his death, until he became regarded as an eccentric figure on the fringes of science. His legendary showmanship and the outlandish claims he made late in life of inventing high-tech weaponry have made it easy for critics to dismiss him as little more than a charlatan. Yet he was one of the pioneers of electricity, working first with Edison, then Westinghouse to develop the technology that established electrification in America. W. Bernard Carlson’s Nikola Tesla tells the story of a life that seems drawn from the pages of a novel by Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, of legal battles with Marconi over the development of radio, of fortunes sunk into the construction of grandiose laboratories for high voltage experiments.

By contrast, the reputation of Albert Einstein seems only to have grown in the century since the publication of his General Theory of Relativity. He is perhaps the only scientist to have achieved iconic status in the public mind, his face recognized as the face of genius. Children know the equation e=mc2 even though most adults would struggle to explain its implications. From the publication of the four 1905 papers onwards, Einstein’s place in scientific history has been secure, and his work remains the cornerstone of modern understanding of the nature of the universe. We are proud to announce the publication of a special 100th anniversary edition of Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, and the recent global launch of our open access online archive from the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, the Digital Einstein Papers.

Happy Birthday Albert Einstein

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

This is a huge year for Einstein at Princeton University Press. December marked the celebrated launch of The Digital Einstein Papers, a free open-access website that puts The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein online for the very first time. Today is Albert Einstein’s 136th birthday, as well as Pi Day, which, as Steven Strogatz writes in The New Yorker, is far “more than just some circle fixation.” So once you’ve rung it in with this Pi Day recipe, you might like to check out this book list in honor of the influential scientist and writer, who fittingly enough, shares his birthday with the popular mathematical holiday. Sample chapters for several Einstein related books are linked below.



The Meaning of Relativity:
Including the Relativistic Theory of the Non-Symmetric Field (Fifth Edition)

Fifth edition
Albert Einstein
With a new introduction by Brian Greene
Chapter 1

The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 14:
The Berlin Years: Writings & Correspondence, April 1923–May 1925

Documentary edition
Albert Einstein
Edited by Diana Kormos Buchwald, József Illy, Ze’ev Rosenkranz, Tilman Sauer & Osik Moses

Chapter 1


bookjacket  The Road to Relativity:
The History and Meaning of Einstein’s “The Foundation of General Relativity” Featuring the Original Manuscript of Einstein’s Masterpiece

Hanoch Gutfreund & Jürgen Renn
With a foreword by John Stachel
Released April 2015


bookjacket The Physicist and the Philosopher:
Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time

Jimena Canales
Released May 2015



Philosophy of Physics:
Space and Time

Tim Maudlin
Released May 2015Introduction



Frank Wilczek to edit The Princeton Companion to Physics


Source: MIT Department of Physics, http://web.mit.edu/physics/people/faculty/wilczek_frank.html

Princeton University Press is honored and excited to announce that Frank Wilczek (Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT) will be Volume Editor of the forthcoming Princeton Companion to Physics. Wilczek is co-recipient (with David Gross and H. David Politzer) of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of asymptotic freedom. He is also the author of Longing For the Harmonies (Norton, 1987; New York Times Notable Book of the Year) and The Lightness of Being (Basic Books, 2010).

Following on the models of The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (Timothy Gowers, Ed.) and The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics (forthcoming, Nicholas Higham, Ed.), this single-volume, carefully curated collection of well-written essays will present the big and essential themes of research in the various areas comprising the physical sciences.

Ingrid Gnerlich, Science Group Publisher and the commissioning editor of the work, comments: “A unique feature of this type of Companion volume is the very special intellectual vision of the Volume Editor, in terms of how the scope, philosophy, and level of the content are articulated and executed. We feel that Prof. Wilczek will offer this project a rare depth and breadth of insight and perspective, combined with a sensitivity for graceful and accessible language, which will make this book a ‘must have’ for a wide readership of physics students, professional physicists and other scientists, and even an array of sophisticated general readers. We anticipate this book to be an example of the very best type of Princeton publication— a superb volume that guides, inspires, and enlightens.”

The anticipated publication date for The Princeton Companion to Physics is 2018.


The lastest in physics and astrophysics

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If you’re heading to the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA January 4th–8th, come visit us at booth 413. See you there!

Wizards, Aliens, and Starships and Einstein and the Quantum named Top 10 Physics Books of 2014 by Physics Today magazine

Charles L. Adler’s Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction and A. Douglas Stone’s Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian were each named to Physics World‘s 2014 “Top 10 Books of the Year” list. The ten books on the list “are all well written, novel and scientifically interesting for a physics audience.”

On their blog, Physics World writes of Wizards, Aliens, and Starships,

“Books about the science of science fiction aren’t uncommon, but it’s rare to see the subject treated with as much flair and rigour as it is here. Throughout this book, author Charles Adler uses ‘Fermi problems’ – challenging exercises in reasoning and back-of-the-envelope calculation – to evaluate the plausibility of various concepts from SF and fantasy. It’s an approach that should endear his book to physicist readers, and it’s particularly pleasing to see the world of fantasy (not just “hard” science fiction) get some scientific scrutiny.”

Further praise was given to Einstein and the Quantum:

“Sparkling writing and crystal-clear physics make this account of Einstein’s quantum work stand out on the overcrowded shelf of books devoted to the world’s most famous physicist. Unlike many other Einstein authors, A. Douglas Stone is neither a cosmologist nor a historian. Instead, he’s a solid-state physicist, and the parts of Einstein’s work that most intrigue him concern thermodynamics and the behaviour of quantum ideal gases, rather than well-known gedankenexperiments about beams of light on trains. Reading about this other side of Einstein is a real (and unexpected) pleasure.”

According to Physics World, “2014 has been a fantastic year for science books, and for physics books in particular,” and the same can be said for all our PUP titles!


Wizards, Aliens, and Starships:
Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction
Charles L. Adler 



Einstein and the Quantum:
The Quest of the Valiant Swabian
A. Douglas Stone

Watch Diana Buchwald, editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, introduce The Digital Einstein Papers

Explore The Digital Einstein Papers for yourself: http://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu

Produced in association with Caltech Academic Media Technologies. © 2014 California Institute of Technology

Princeton University Press launches The Digital Einstein Papers

DEP front page

Launching today, THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS is a publicly available website of the collected and translated papers of Albert Einstein that allows readers to explore the writings of the world’s most famous scientist as never before.

Princeton, NJ – December 5, 2014 – Princeton University Press, in partnership with Tizra, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and California Institute of Technology, announces the launch of THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS (http://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu). This unique, authoritative resource provides full public access to the translated and annotated writings of the most influential scientist of the twentieth century: Albert Einstein.

“Princeton University Press has a long history of publishing books by and about Albert Einstein, including the incredible work found in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein,” said Peter Dougherty, director of Princeton University Press. “We are delighted to make these texts openly available to a global audience of researchers, scientists, historians, and students keen to learn more about Albert Einstein. This project not only furthers the mission of the press to publish works that contribute to discussions that have the power to change our world, but also illustrates our commitment to pursuing excellence in all forms of publishing—print and digital.”

THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS website presents the complete contents of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, and, upon its launch, the website—http://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu—will contain 5,000 documents covering the first forty-four years of Einstein’s life, up to and including the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics and his long voyage to the Far East. Additional material will be available on the website approximately eighteen months after the print publication of new volumes of The Collected Papers. Eventually, the website will provide access to all of Einstein’s writings and correspondence, accompanied by scholarly annotation and apparatus.

What sorts of gems will users discover in THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS? According to Diana L. Kormos-Buchwald, director of the Einstein Papers Project, “This material has been carefully researched and annotated over the last twenty-five years and contains all of Einstein’s scientific and popular writings, drafts, lecture notes, and diaries, and his professional and personal correspondence up to his forty-fourth birthday—so users will discover major scientific articles on the general theory of relativity, gravitation, and quantum theory alongside his love letters to his first wife, correspondence with his children, and his intense exchanges with other notable scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, and political personalities of the early twentieth century.”

Buchwald also noted that THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS will introduce current and future generations to important ideas and moments in history, saying, “It is exciting to think that thanks to the careful application of new technology, this work will now reach a much broader audience and stand as the authoritative digital source for Einstein’s written legacy.”

THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS enables readers to experience the writings of Albert Einstein in unprecedented ways. Advance search technology improves discoverability by allowing users to perform keyword searches across volumes of Einstein’s writing and, with a single click, navigate between the original languages in which the texts were written and their English translations. Further exploration is encouraged by extensive explanatory footnotes, introductory essays, and links to the Einstein Archives Online, where there are thousands of high-quality digital images of Einstein’s writings.

The Tizra platform was selected for this project, according to Kenneth Reed, manager of digital production for Princeton University Press, because of its highly flexible, open, and intuitive content delivery approach, and its strong reputation for reliability. Equally important was creating a user-friendly reading experience.

“One of the reasons we chose Tizra is that we wanted to preserve the look and feel of the volumes,” said Reed. “You’ll see the pages as they appear in the print volumes, with added functionality such as linking between the documentary edition and translation, as well as linking to the Einstein Archives Online, and the ability to search across all the volumes in English and German.”

THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS is an unprecedented scholarly collaboration that highlights what is possible when technology, important content, and a commitment to global scholarly communication are brought together. We hope you will join us in celebrating this achievement and invite you to explore Einstein’s writings with the links below.

Work on THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS was supported by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. endowment, the California Institute of Technology, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Arcadia Fund, U.K.

A Sampling of Documents Found in THE DIGITAL EINSTEIN PAPERS

Website: http://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu

“My Projects for the Future” — In this high school French essay, a seventeen-year-old Einstein describes his future plans, writing that “young people especially like to contemplate bold projects.”

Letter to Mileva Marić — The first volume of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein revealed that the young Einstein had fathered an illegitimate daughter. In this letter to his sweetheart and future wife, Einstein, age twenty-two, expresses his happiness at the birth of his daughter Lieserl, and asks about her health and feeding.

Einstein’s first job offer — Einstein graduated from university in 1900, but had great difficulty finding academic employment. He received this notice of his appointment as a technical clerk at the Swiss Patent Office in June 1902 and would later describe his time there as happy and productive.

“On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” — Einstein’s 1905 paper on the special theory of relativity is a landmark in the development of modern physics.

“On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light” — Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this paper on the hypothesis of energy quanta.

The telegram informing that Einstein he has won the Nobel Prize — Einstein was traveling in the Far East when he officially learned via telegram that he had been awarded the prize. However, he had long been expecting the prize, as evidenced by a clause regarding its disposition in a preliminary divorce agreement from Mileva in 1918.

“The Field Equations of Gravitation” — Einstein spent a decade developing the general theory of relativity and published this article in late 1915.

To his mother Pauline Einstein — Einstein writes to his ailing mother to share the happy news that his prediction of gravitational light bending was confirmed by a British eclipse expedition in 1919.

To Heinrich Zangger, on the mercurial nature of fame — Having been propelled to world fame, Einstein writes to his friend about the difficulties of being “worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow.”

To Max Planck, on receiving credible death threats — Einstein writes that he cannot attend the Scientist’s Convention in Berlin because he is “supposedly among the group of persons being targeted by nationalist assassins.”

Four Lectures on the Theory of Relativity, held at Princeton University in May 1921 — On his first trip to the United States, Einstein famously delivered these lectures on the theory of relativity.

About The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein is one of the most ambitious publishing ventures ever undertaken in the documentation of the history of science. Selected from among more than 40,000 documents contained in Einstein’s personal collection, and 15,000 Einstein and Einstein-related documents discovered by the editors since the beginning of the Einstein Project, The Collected Papers provides the first complete picture of a massive written legacy. When completed, the series will contain more than 14,000 documents as full text and will fill thirty volumes. The volumes are published by Princeton University Press, sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and supported by the California Institute of Technology.

About Princeton University Press
Princeton University Press is an independent publisher with close connections, both formal and informal, to Princeton University. As such it has overlapping responsibilities to the University, the academic community, and the reading public. Our fundamental mission is to disseminate scholarship (through print and digital media) both within academia and to society at large.
http://press.princeton.edu | Twitter: @PrincetonUPress

About Tizra
Tizra’ digital publishing platform makes it easy to distribute and sell ebooks and other digital content directly to readers, with exceptional control over the user experience. Combining intuitive control panels with integrated ecommerce, SEO, mobile, multimedia, and content remixing capabilities, Tizra empowers content owners to respond quickly to market feedback and build audience relationships that will hold up over the long haul. The company is headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, and funded in part by Rhode Island’s Slater Technology Fund.
http://tizra.com  |  Twitter: @tizra

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