Leipzig: F.W. Vogel, 1909. 1st Edition. Bound first edition of the FIRST PUBLISHED ACCCOUNT OF MINKOWSKI’S SPACETIME HYPOTHESIS “THE NOTION THAT MADE POSSIBLE THE EXPANSION OF THE RELATIVITY THEORY OF EINSTEIN FROM ITS SPECIFIC (1905) TO ITS GENERAL FORM (1916). “The laws of physics were written in the language of the geometry of this four dimensional space ... Physics had become geometry, and it was a stunning achievement” (Gerber, The Language of Physics, pp. 358).
Minkowski's hypothesis was first presented as a lecture in Cologne on his theory of four-dimensional spacetime, with this text of the lecture published the following year. “Raum und Zeit” was first published in this 1909 printing of Verhandlunge of the Deutscher Naturforscher und Aertze, 80 Versammlung zu Cöln. 20. – 28. September 1908. Any printing other than this Leipzig: Vogel publication (as offered here) is not the true first publication. The paper was also later reprinted in Jahresbericht der Deutschen.
“Minkowski’s space-time hypothesis was in effect a restatement of Einstein’s basic principle in a form that greatly enhanced its plausibility and also introduced important new developments. Hitherto natural phenomena had been thought to occur in a space of three dimensions and to flow uniformly through time. Minkowski maintained that the separation of time and space is a false conception; that time itself is a dimension, comparable to length, breadth, and height; and that therefore the true conception of reality was constituted by a space-time continuum possessing these four dimensions” (ibid).
“The impact of Minkowski’s ideas on the twentieth century physics has been so immense that one cannot imagine modern physics without the notion of spacetime. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that spacetime has been the greatest discovery in physics of all times. The only other discovery that comes close to spacetime is Einstein’s general relativity, which revealed that gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime. But it was the discovery of spacetime which paved the way for this deep understanding of what gravity really is” (Petkov, Space, Time, and Spacetime, p. v).
Einstein had argued that “it was not merely impracticable to measure the earth’s speed through space: the very formulation of the enquiry showed a complete misconception of the nature of the universe. Absolute space and time are not constituents of the real world but metaphysical concepts of the human mind… Minkowski maintained that the separation of time and space is a false conception; that time itself is a dimension, comparable to length, breadth, and height; and that therefore the true conception of reality was constituted by a space-time continuum possessing these four dimensions (PMM).
Initially indifferent toward Minkowski’s four-dimensional formulation of his own special relativity, Einstein soon grasped that his own theory of gravity would be implausible absent Minkowski’s hypothesis.
“In the Minkowski-Einstein universe a geometry conceived in terms of space and not of flat surfaces is essential… No particle in a Euclidean universe moves at such a speed that no greater speed is conceivable. In Minkowski’s universe this is not true. A finite figure of ultimate velocity must be found. This is now conceded to be the speed of light” (ibid). Item #1359
CONDITION & DETAILS: 4to. Complete full volume. In Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft deutscher Naturforscher und Ärzte. 80. Vesammlung zu Cöln 20.- 26. September 1908 Zweiter Theil. 1. Hälfte pp. 4–9, 1909. Tightly bound in contemporary leather with some minor scuffing and wear. Gilt-lettered at the spine. The textblock is finely marbled. Though the endpapers are toned, the interior is bright and very, very clean throughout. Fine condition.