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Albert Einstein (1879-1955) published his first work on relativity in 1905, the same year in which he published remarkable papers on Brownian motion and the photoelectric effect. At the time he did this work, he was a patent examiner in the Swiss Patent Office. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 "for his services to the theory of physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect." He became a professor of physics at several German universities, and in 1916, he took a position at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin.

As the Nazi party became powerful and finally took control of the country, Einstein became a target of the Nazi's anti-Jewish campaign. He left Germany with regret and found sanctuary in the United States. In 1933 he became a permanent staff member at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. He remained at that post for the rest of his life.

Einstein proposed a solution to the puzzle posed by the Michelson-Morley results, and that work has come to be known as the theory of special relativity. Einstein's solution came as a surprise to most physicists because it was based not upon some strange new principle, but upon two postulates that would have been conceded by nearly all and upon a careful scrutiny of some accepted concepts. [excerpt]

Additional Resources

The excerpt from P.W. Bridgman's book, The Logic of Modern Physics, has been removed due to copyright restrictions.

An online version of the same (1927) edition is available here.


This is a part of Section XX: Meaning in the Physical Sciences. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.