In the Ernst Mach wikipedia page, Einstein seems to be influenced by Ernst Mach. But it says

In 1930, [Einstein] stated that "it is justified to consider Mach as the precursor of the general theory of relativity",[23] though Mach, before his death, would apparently reject Einstein's theory.[24] Einstein was aware that his theories did not fulfill all Mach's principles, and no subsequent theory has either, despite considerable effort.

Why did Mach reject Einstein's theory?

  • $\begingroup$ Usually it's a bad idea to ask more than one question within a single question on an SE site. Since your second question already seems to have been asked here physics.stackexchange.com/questions/5483/… , I hope you don't mind if I edit it out and leave the first question. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 22 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ I am new on SE, so thank you very much for your editing. $\endgroup$ – Taygun Feb 22 at 17:11

We don't even know for sure that Mach did reject relativity. Footnote 24 in the WP article says:

The preface of the posthumously published Principles of Physical Optics explicitly rejects Einstein's relativistic views but it has been argued that the text is inauthentic; see Gereon Wolters, Mach and Einstein, or Clearing Troubled Waters in the History of Science. "Einstein and the Changing Worldviews of Physics". Birkhäuser, Boston, 2012. 39-57.

Wolters has written several papers on this topic, which you can find in the references of this article. I don't know if any of them are available without a paywall. Einstein first met his hero Mach in 1909, when Mach was 71. IIRC, the story is that there was difficulty communicating, Mach was out of touch with current research, and Mach didn't really seem to understand what Einstein was trying to say to him.

  • $\begingroup$ GR is incompatible with Mach's principle so, we can conclude that Mach rejects Einstein's theory. As I understand there is not any article about the details of this rejection. Mach was too old to write about something about GR. $\endgroup$ – Taygun Feb 22 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ I would add that old physicists tend to become more conservative with age (like most people), so it's not surprising that Mach rejected Relativity theory (like Poincaré himself, by the way). $\endgroup$ – Cham Feb 22 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Taygun: GR is incompatible with Mach's principle This is a fair characterization using modern knowledge, but these issues were not really well understood until ca. 1975, 60 years after Mach's death. so, we can conclude that Mach rejects Einstein's theory You can't conclude anything about his opinions on this basis. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 22 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Cham: so it's not surprising that Mach rejected Relativity theory We don't know that he did reject it. My answer basically asserts that he didn't know much about it and probably didn't have an opinion. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 22 at 19:46

Ernst Mach died in 1916.

I don't remember any historian of science mentioning Ernst Mach commenting on GR, making it unlikely that Mach ever commented on Einstein's GR ideas

On the history of Mach's principle:

Historians of science describe that what is now known as 'Mach's principle' was first introduced by Einstein.

My main source is John Norton. In particular the article: Mach's principle before Einstein

Historians of science emphasize that Ernst Mach adhered to an extremely austere philosophy of physics. Just how austere can be seen from Mach's position on the question whether matter consists of atoms. Mach was among the last of physicists to acknowledge that the existance of atoms had been proved beyond doubt. That is: Ernst Mach argued for an extremely high burden of proof. Mach argued: if you cannot prove it it is speculation and not part of science.

In his book on mechanics Mach criticized Newton's notion of absolute space. Speaking more generally Mach argued: since we have no means to investigate whether the inertia we observe locally is due to distant matter (the fixed stars), this is a speculative thought, and hence not part of science.

As we know, Einstein did the very thing that Ernst Mach condemned: Einstein made it into a principle: Einstein's Mach's principle.

While Einstein's Mach's principle was a strong source of inspiration during the development of GR, it was later abandoned. Historians of science describe that within five years or so after completing GR Einstein abandoned Einstein's Mach's principle. This is manifested by the fact that Einstein ceased mentioning Einstein's Mach's principle. In the first years after completing GR, when writing an article about GR, Einstein still asserted that in GR Einstein's Mach's principle was fully realized. Over time Einstein stopped making that assertion.

Explicit confirmation of Einstein abandoning Einstein's Mach's principle is found in correspondence between Einstein and F. Pirani (letter, 2 february 1954) "Von dem Mach'schen Prinzip [...] sollte mann nach meiner meinung überhaupt nicht mehr sprechen." ("In my opinion we should no longer talk about Mach's principle at all." )


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