1.1 Preface

This historical review of classical unified field theories consists of two parts. In the first, the development of unified field theory between 1914 and 1933, i.e., during the years Einstein lived and worked in Berlin, will be covered. In the second, the very active period after 1933 until the 1960s to 1970s will be reviewed. In the first version of Part I presented here, in view of the immense amount of material, neither all shades of unified field theory nor all the contributions from the various scientific schools will be discussed with the same intensity; I apologise for the shortcoming and promise to improve on it with the next version. At least, even if I do not discuss them all in detail, as many references as are necessary for a first acquaintance with the field are listed here; completeness may be reached only (if at all) by later updates. Although I also tried to take into account the published correspondence between the main figures, my presentation, again, is far from exhaustive in this context. Eventually, unpublished correspondence will have to be worked in, and this may change some of the conclusions. Purposely I included mathematicians and also theoretical physicists of lesser rank than those who are known to be responsible for big advances. My aim is to describe the field in its full variety as it presented itself to the reader at the time. The review is written such that physicists should be able to follow the technical aspects of the papers (cf. Section 2), while historians of science without prior knowledge of the mathematics of general relativity at least might gain an insight into the development of concepts, methods, and scientific communities involved. I should hope that readers find more than one opportunity for further in-depth studies concerning the many questions left open.

I profited from earlier reviews of the field, or of parts of it, by Pauli ([246Jump To The Next Citation Point], Section V); Ludwig [212]; Whittaker ([414], pp. 188–196); Lichnerowicz [209]; Tonnelat ([356Jump To The Next Citation Point], pp. 1–14); Jordan ([176], Section III); Schmutzer ([290], Section X); Treder ([183Jump To The Next Citation Point], pp. 30–43); Bergmann ([12], pp. 62–73); Straumann [334335Jump To The Next Citation Point]; Vizgin [384385Jump To The Next Citation Point]1; Bergia [11]; Goldstein and Ritter [146]; Straumann and O’Raifeartaigh [240Jump To The Next Citation Point]; Scholz [292Jump To The Next Citation Point], and Stachel [330Jump To The Next Citation Point]. The section on Einstein’s unified field theories in Pais’ otherwise superb book presents the matter neither with the needed historical correctness nor with enough technical precision [241Jump To The Next Citation Point]. A recent contribution of van Dongen, focussing on Einstein’s methodology, was also helpful [371Jump To The Next Citation Point]. As will be seen, with regard to interpretations and conclusions, my views are different in some instances. In Einstein biographies, the subject of “unified field theories” – although keeping Einstein busy for the second half of his life – has been dealt with only in passing, e.g., in the book of Jordan [177], and in an unsatisfying way in excellent books by Fölsing [136] and by Hermann [159]. This situation is understandable; for to describe a genius stubbornly clinging to a set of ideas, sterile for physics in comparison with quantum mechanics, over a period of more than 30 years, is not very rewarding. For the short biographical notes, various editions of J. C. Poggendorff’s Biographisch-Literarischem Handwörterbuch and internet sources have been used (in particular [1]). If not indicated otherwise, all non-English quotations have been translated by the author; the original text of quotations is given in footnotes.

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