The revival of General Relativity at Princeton: Daring Conservatism
Department of Physics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
2 Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraβe 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany
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Published online: 9 January 2018
After General Relativity was established in essentially its present form in 1915 it was celebrated as a great success of mathematical physics. But the initial hopes for this theory as a basis for all of physics began to fade in the next several decades, as General Relativity was relegated to the margins of theoretical physics. Its fate began to rise in the 1950's in a revival of interest and research that over time made gravitational physics one of the hottest research topics it is today. One center of this renaissance was Princeton, where two relative newcomers explored new and different approaches to gravitational physics. Robert Dicke showed that gravity is not as inaccessible to experiment as was thought, and John Wheeler propelled it into the mainstream by proposing highly original and imaginative consequences of Einstein's theory. We will concentrate on these ideas that, in his characteristically intriguing style, Wheeler called "Daring Conservatism" -- a term well known to his associates, but one he never mentioned in print. With the aid of unpublished manuscripts and notes we will explore Daring Conservatism's origin and motivation, its successes and failures, and the legacy it left behind.
© The Authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2018
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).