Critical researches on general electrodynamics: introduction and first part

By Walter Ritz 1980

Beitrag aus dem GOM-Projekt: 2394 weitere kritische Veröffentlichungen
zur Ergänzung der Dokumentation Textversion 1.2 – 2004, Kapitel 4. 

Critical researches on general electrodynamics: introduction and first part / Walter Ritz (1908); translation: Lucier-Fritzius-Toth. – Starkville, MS: Fritzius 1980. 69 S.
Exemplar der Mitchell Memorial Library, Mississippi State University. Orig.-Veröff. in: Annales de Chimie et de Physique. 13, 1908, S. 145-275.
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Translated (1980) from Recherches critiques sur l’Électrodynamique Générale,
Annales de Chimie et de Physique, Vol. 13, p. 145, 1908.


Annales 145 (Oeuvres 317)
Electric and electrodynamic phenomena have acquired in the course of these last years more and more importance. They include Optics, the laws of radiation and the innumerable molecular phenomena associated with the presence of charged centers, ions and electrons. Finally, with the notion of electromagnetic mass, Mechanics itself seems obliged to become a chapter of General Electrodynamics. In the form given to it by H. A. Lorentz, Maxwell’s theory would thus become the turning point towards a new conception of nature, where the laws of electrodynamics, considered as primary, would contain the laws of motion as special cases and would play the fundamental role in the physical theories which, until now, have belonged to Mechanics.
Under these circumstances, it is plainly desirable to have a rigorous criticism of the foundations of this theory, to give it the degree of clarity and precision that Mechanics itself reached only recently after much controversy. It is in order to ask which hypotheses are essential and can be deduced from observations, which others are logically useless or can be discarded without experience ceasing to be adequately represented, and finally, which are those which can be, and should be (Oeuvres 318) rejected; a question which is asked principally in regard to absolute motion.

Annales 146 
In the first part of his Lessons on Electricity and Optics(1) Poincaré devoted some classic pages to the criticism of the more or less distinctive theories of Maxwell himself and of Hertz; therefore I will concern myself only with the form that the theory took in the hands of Lorentz, a form that presents well known advantages. Some of his results can easily be extended to the other theories. Here again, I only have to recall or to complete the ideas put forward by Poincaré and more importantly by Lorentz who was well aware of the different aspects under which his theory could be interpreted.
In general, I set aside the phenomena of molecular order, dependent on the corpuscular theory of electricity: this fruitful concept is evidently independent, in large part, of ideas that we can develop about the mode of action of electric charges on one another via the ether medium, which are more specifically the object of electrodynamic equations.
The result of these researches has not been favorable to the existing theories. The discussions about the difficulties that they raise show that the difficulties have a common origin intimately linked to the concept of ether, which is the basis of all these theories. We will see specifically that:
l° From a strictly logical point of view, the electric and magnetic forces, which, in appearance, play in the theory a role so fundamental are notions that we can eliminate entirely; they only contain in reality the relations of space and time: we thus return to the old elementary actions, with this sole difference that they are no longer instantaneous.

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Siehe hierzu auch in diesem Blog:
Kritische Untersuchungen zur allgemeinen Elektrodynamik – 1908
Über die Rolle des Äthers in der Physik


  1. Robert Fritzius 12. März 2013 (13:42 Uhr)



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