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Ether and ModernityThe recalcitrance of an epistemic object in the early twentieth century$
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Jaume Navarro

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198797258

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198797258.001.0001

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Poincaré’s Mathematical Creations in Search of the ‘True Relations of Things’

Poincaré’s Mathematical Creations in Search of the ‘True Relations of Things’

Chapter:
(p.45) 4 Poincaré’s Mathematical Creations in Search of the ‘True Relations of Things’
Source:
Ether and Modernity
Author(s):

Connemara Doran

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198797258.003.0004

How did the vast corpus of mathematical innovation of Henri Poincaré (1854–1912) engage the rationale, and impact the fate, of the notion of the ether in physics? Poincaré sought the ‘true relations’ that adhere in the phenomena—relations that persist irrespective of the choice of a metric geometry and a change in physical theory. This chapter traces how Poincaré embedded utterly new geometries and topological intuitions at the heart of pure mathematics, mathematical physics and philosophy. It demonstrates that Poincaré had no ownership of the physicists’ ether concept and that he viewed the ether as neither necessary nor necessarily a hindrance for further advance. Poincaré attended to the profound and subtle needs regarding space and time within physics by creating profound and subtle mathematics to capture the ‘true relations’, of spacetime. Poincaré thereby rendered the physicists’ ether superfluous while also creating mathematical structures for gravitational and quantum phenomena.

Keywords:   Henri Poincaré, mathematical physics, geometry, space, ether, spacetime, philosophy

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