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The Local versus the Global in the History of Relativity: The Case of Belgium

ten Hagen, Sjang L. (2021) The Local versus the Global in the History of Relativity: The Case of Belgium. Science in Context, 33 (3). pp. 227-250.

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Abstract

This article contributes to a global history of relativity, by exploring how Einstein’s theory was appropriated in Belgium. This may sound like a contradiction in terms, yet the early-twentieth-century Belgian context, because of its cultural diversity and reflectiveness of global conditions (the principal example being the First World War), proves well-suited to expose transnational flows and patterns in the global history of relativity. The attempts of Belgian physicist Théophile de Donder to contribute to relativity physics during the 1910s and 1920s illustrate the role of the war in shaping the transnational networks through which relativity circulated. The local attitudes of conservative Belgian Catholic scientists and philosophers, who denied that relativity was philosophically significant, exemplify a global pattern: while critics of relativity feared to become marginalized by the scientific, political, and cultural revolutions that Einstein and his theory were taken to represent, supporters sympathized with these revolutions.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
ten Hagen, Sjang L.s.l.tenhagen@gmail.com
Keywords: Transnational historiography, Reception of relativity, First World War, Belgium, Théophile de Donder, Georges Lemaître, Neo-Scholasticism
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Depositing User: Dr. Sjang L. ten Hagen
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2021 14:00
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2021 14:00
Item ID: 19261
Journal or Publication Title: Science in Context
Official URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/science-in...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0269889721000028[Opens in a new window]
Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
Date: 7 June 2021
Page Range: pp. 227-250
Volume: 33
Number: 3
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/19261

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