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Lyceum Society: Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time

Lyceum Society: Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Lyceum Society


Speaker: Miriam Hecht, Hunter College, City University of New York

Miriam Hecht will lead a discussion on Peter Louis Galison's book, Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time. Dr. Hecht is a professor emerita of mathematics at Hunter College, CUNY.

Clocks and trains, telegraphs, and colonial conquest: the challenges of the late nineteenth century were an indispensable real-world background to the enormous theoretical breakthrough of relativity.

Two giants at the foundations of modern science were converging, step-by-step, on the answer: Albert Einstein, a young, obscure, German physicist experimenting with measuring time using telegraph networks and with the coordination of clocks at train stations; and the renowned mathematician Henri Poincaré, president of the French Bureau of Longitude, mapping time coordinates across continents. Each found that to understand the newly global world, he had to determine whether a pure time existed in which simultaneity was absolute or whether time was relative.