Who have you heard of? Albert Einstein or David Hilbert?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always known of the German-born physicist and humanitarian Albert Einstein but, until a few days ago, I’d never heard of the German mathematician David Hilbert. I came across Hilbert in the book I am currently reading: “Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity” by the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli.

In his explanation of the origins of the theory of relativity, Rovelli presents the exposition of the theory as a race that could have gone either way: “The sprint to the finish between the two giants was a nail-biting affair, eventually decided by a matter of just a few days”.

Now, in the case of many scientific discoveries, there are rival claims to being first and/or questions about how far the discoverer used the work of others. In the case of the theory of relativity, you can see the discussion here.



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