NBA History of Science Seminar

Roberto Lalli, "Building a Scientific Community in the Post-WWII Era: A Network Analysis of the Renaissance of General Relativity."

Roberto Lalli

Roberto Lalli, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.

During the second half of the twentieth century the field of general relativity and gravitation experienced an impressive revival, which has been called the ‘renaissance’ of general relativity. The tools provided by network analysis and visualization are employed to describe and investigate both social and epistemic aspects of this dynamical process. The increasing connectivity and the related topological transitions of the network of collaborations of scientists working in fields associated with general relativity can be interpreted as a periodization of the ‘renaissance’ of general relativity. On the basis of these quantitative analyses, I argue that a community of scholars working on general relativity and gravitation was already established before new astrophysical discoveries provided further connections between the theory of general relativity and the empirical world. In addition to the network analysis of the relativity community, a study of the historical evolution of the co-citation network is presented and conclusions are drawn about the connections between the ‘renaissance’ phenomenon and the increasing relevance of specific research fields.