The British Journal for the History of Science

Research Article

Poincare's Silence and Einstein's Relativity: The Role of Theory and Experiment in Poincaré's Physics

Stanley Goldberg

It is a matter of record that Henri Poincaré never responded publicly to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (RT). Since almost no private papers of Poincaré are available, his attitude toward Einstein's work and his silence on that score become somewhat of a mystery. It is almost certain that Poincaré knew of Einstein's work in RT. First, he was fluent in German, having learned it as a young man when the Germans occupied his home town of Nancy in 1870. Second, he often reported to the members of the Académie des Sciences on current work in electrodynamics in Germany. It is highly improbable that he would have missed the abstract of Einstein's first paper on RT or the subsequent articles by Einstein on the subject, especially those which were translated into French, since they were in areas directly related to his own interests in theoretical physics.