NBA History of Science Seminar

Peter Galison , "Einstein's clocks, Poincaré's maps."

In the standard picture of the history of special relativity, Einstein's reformulation of simultaneity is considered a quasi-philosophical (Machian) intervention, a move made possible by his *dis*-connection from the standard physics of the day.

Peter Galison, Professor, Harvard University

Meanwhile, Einstein's engagement at the Patent Office enters the story as a lowly day job, offering him some technical training but essentially irrelevant to his work on relativity.

I argue in this paper that, on the contrary, Einstein's patent work located him squarely in the middle of a wealth of cultural discussions and patents surrounding the coordination of clocks along railway lines and throughout the cities of central Europe.

By understanding the history of coordinated clocks, his restructuring of time - at the core of his relativity work of May 1905 - shines in a very different light.