This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Timeline of special relativity and the speed of light" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (December 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Albert Einstein and Hendrik Lorentz in 1921 in Leiden

This timeline describes the major developments, both experimental and theoretical, of:

This list also mentions the origins of standard notation (like c) and terminology (like theory of relavity).

Criteria for inclusion

Task Force One, the world's first nuclear-powered task force. Enterprise, Long Beach and Bainbridge in formation in the Mediterranean, 18 June 1964. Enterprise crew members are spelling out Einstein's mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 on the flight deck.

Theories other than SR are not described here exhaustively, but only to the extent that is directly relevant to SR – i.e. at points when they:

For a more detailed timeline of aether theories – e.g. their emergence with the wave theory of light – see a separate article. Also, not all experiments are listed here – repetitions, even with much higher precision than the original, are mentioned only if they influence or challenge the opinions at their time. It was the case with:

For lists of repetitions, see the articles of particular experiments. The measurements of speed of light are also mentioned only to the minimum extent, i.e. when they proved for the first time that c is finite and invariant. Innovations like the use of Foucault's rotating mirror or the Fizeau wheel are not listed here – see the article about speed of light.

This timeline also ignores, for reasons of volume and clarity:

Before the 19th century

A redrawn version of the illustration from the 1676 news report. Rømer compared the apparent duration of Io's orbits as Earth moved towards Jupiter (F to G) and as Earth moved away from Jupiter (L to K).

19th century

Before 1880s


Michelson and Morley's interferometric setup, mounted on a stone slab that floats in an annular trough of mercury


20th century

Hermann Minkowski, who introduced the spacetime formalism to special relativity in 1908.



Schematic representation of a Sagnac interferometer.

1920s and 1930s

After 1930s

21st century

See also


  1. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEppenstein, Otto (1911). "Aberration". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). pp. 54–61.
  2. ^ Rømer, Ole (30 September 1677), "Lettre Nº 2104", in Bosscha, J. (ed.), Œuvres complètes de Christiaan Huygens (1888–1950). Tome VIII: Correspondance 1676–1684, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff (published 1899), pp. 32–35. (in Latin)
  3. ^ Wróblewski, Andrzej (1985), "de Mora Luminis: A spectacle in two acts with a prologue and an epilogue", Am. J. Phys., 53 (7): 620–30, Bibcode:1985AmJPh..53..620W, doi:10.1119/1.14270
  4. ^ Arago, A. (1810–1853), "Mémoire sur la vitesse de la lumière, lu à la prémière classe de l'Institut, le 10 décembre 1810", Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, 36: 38–49
  5. ^ Fresnel, A. (1818), "Lettre de M. Fresnel à M. Arago sur l'influence du mouvement terrestre dans quelques phénomènes d'optique", Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 9: 57–66 (Sep. 1818), 286–7 (Nov. 1818); reprinted in H. de Senarmont, E. Verdet, and L. Fresnel (eds.), Oeuvres complètes d'Augustin Fresnel, vol. 2 (1868), pp. 627–36; translated as "Letter from Augustin Fresnel to François Arago, on the influence of the movement of the earth on some phenomena of optics" in K.F. Schaffner, Nineteenth-Century Aether Theories, Pergamon, 1972 (doi:10.1016/C2013-0-02335-3), pp. 125–35; also translated (with several errors) by R.R. Traill as "Letter from Augustin Fresnel to François Arago concerning the influence of terrestrial movement on several optical phenomena", General Science Journal, 23 January 2006 (PDF, 8 pp.).
  6. ^ Stokes, George Gabriel (1845), "On the Aberration of Light" , Philosophical Magazine, 27 (177): 9–15, doi:10.1080/14786444508645215
  7. ^ Fizeau, H. (1851). "Sur les hypothèses relatives à l'éther lumineux". Comptes Rendus. 33: 349–355.
    English: Fizeau, H. (1851). "The Hypotheses Relating to the Luminous Aether, and an Experiment which Appears to Demonstrate that the Motion of Bodies Alters the Velocity with which Light Propagates itself in their Interior" . Philosophical Magazine. 2: 568–573.
  8. ^ Hoek, M. (1868). "Determination de la vitesse avec laquelle est entrainée une onde lumineuse traversant un milieu en mouvement" . Verslagen en Mededeelingen. 2: 189–194.
  9. ^ Airy, G.B. (1871). "On the Supposed Alteration in the Amount of Astronomical Aberration of Light, Produced by the Passage of the Light through a Considerable Thickness of Refracting Medium". Proceedings of the Royal Society. 20 (130–138): 35–39. Bibcode:1871RSPS...20...35A. doi:10.1098/rspl.1871.0011. Archived from the original on 2012-05-15.
  10. ^ Michelson, Albert Abraham (1881), "The Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether" , American Journal of Science, 22 (128): 120–129, Bibcode:1881AmJS...22..120M, doi:10.2475/ajs.s3-22.128.120, S2CID 130423116
  11. ^ Lange, L. (1885). "Über die wissenschaftliche Fassung des Galileischen Beharrungsgesetzes". Philosophische Studien. 2: 266–297.
  12. ^ Lange, L. (1885). "Über das Beharrungsgesetz. Berichte über Verhandlungen der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften". Mathematisch-physikalische Klasse. Leipzig: 333–351.
  13. ^ Voigt, W. (1887), "Ueber das Doppler'sche Princip (On the Principle of Doppler)", Göttinger Nachrichten (7): 41–51; Reprinted with additional comments by Voigt in Physikalische Zeitschrift XVI, 381–386 (1915).
  14. ^ Lord Rayleigh (1902). "Does Motion through the Aether cause Double Refraction?" . Philosophical Magazine. 4: 678–683. doi:10.1080/14786440209462891.
  15. ^ Olinto De Pretto (1903). "Ipotesi dell'etere nella vita dell'universo (Hypothesis of Aether in the Life of the Universe)". "Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti" (The Royal Veneto Institute of Science, Letters and Arts). LXIII (II): 439–500. (Accepted November 23, 1903 and printed February 27, 1904.)
  16. ^ F. T. Trouton and H. R. Noble, "The mechanical forces acting on a charged electric condenser moving through space," Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A 202, 165–181 (1903).
  17. ^ F. T. Trouton and H. R. Noble, "The Forces Acting on a Charged Condenser moving through Space. Proc. R. Soc. 74 (479): 132-133 (1903).
  18. ^ Brace, DeWitt Bristol (1904). "On Double Refraction in Matter moving through the Aether" . Philosophical Magazine. 7 (40): 317–329. doi:10.1080/14786440409463122.
  19. ^ Trouton F. T., Rankine A. (1908). "On the electrical resistance of moving matter". Proc. R. Soc. 80 (420): 420–435. Bibcode:1908RSPSA..80..420T. doi:10.1098/rspa.1908.0037. JSTOR 19080525.
  20. ^ Ritz, Walther (1908). "Recherches critiques sur l'Électrodynamique générale". Annales de Chimie et de Physique. 13: 145–275. Bibcode:1908AChPh..13..145R.
  21. ^ Ehrenfest, Paul (1909), "Gleichförmige Rotation starrer Körper und Relativitätstheorie"  [Uniform Rotation of Rigid Bodies and the Theory of Relativity], Physikalische Zeitschrift (in German), 10: 918, Bibcode:1909PhyZ...10..918E
  22. ^ Ignatowsky, W. v. (1910b). "Einige allgemeine Bemerkungen über das Relativitätsprinzip" . Physikalische Zeitschrift. 11: 972–976.
  23. ^ E. T. Whittaker (1910) A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity, page 441.
  24. ^ Vladimir Varicak (1910) Application of Lobachevskian Geometry in the Theory of Relativity Physikalische Zeitschrift via Wikisource
  25. ^ Alfred Robb (1911) Optical Geometry of Motion p.9
  26. ^ Langevin, P. (1911), "The evolution of space and time", Scientia, X: 31–54 (translated by J. B. Sykes, 1973 from the original French: "L'évolution de l'espace et du temps").
  27. ^ Laue, Max von (1911). "Über einen Versuch zur Optik der bewegten Körper". Münchener Sitzungsberichte: 405–412. English translation: On an Experiment on the Optics of Moving Bodies
  28. ^ Silberstein L. The Theory of Relativity, MacMillan 1914
  29. ^ Thirring, Hans (1924), "Über die empirische Grundlage des Prinzips der Konstanz der Lichtgeschwindigkeit", Zeitschrift für Physik, 31 (1): 133–138, Bibcode:1925ZPhy...31..133T, doi:10.1007/BF02980567, S2CID 121928373.
  30. ^ Anton Lampa (1924). "Wie erscheint nach der Relativitätstheorie ein bewegter Stab einem ruhenden Beobachter?". Zeitschrift für Physik (in German). 27 (1): 138–148. Bibcode:1924ZPhy...27..138L. doi:10.1007/BF01328021. S2CID 119547027.
  31. ^ Kennedy, R. J.; Thorndike, E. M. (1932). "Experimental Establishment of the Relativity of Time". Physical Review. 42 (3): 400–418. Bibcode:1932PhRv...42..400K. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.42.400.
  32. ^ Dayton C. Miller, "The Ether-Drift Experiment and the Determination of the Absolute Motion of the Earth", Rev. Mod. Phys., V. 5, N. 3, pp. 203–242 (Jul 1933).
  33. ^ G. W. Hammar (1935). "The Velocity of Light Within a Massive Enclosure". Physical Review. 48 (5): 462–463. Bibcode:1935PhRv...48..462H. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.48.462.2.
  34. ^ H. P. Robertson and Thomas W. Noonan (1968). "Hammar's experiment". Relativity and Cosmology. Philadelphia: Saunders. pp. 36–38.
  35. ^ Ives, H. E.; Stilwell, G. R. (1938). "An experimental study of the rate of a moving atomic clock". Journal of the Optical Society of America. 28 (7): 215. Bibcode:1938JOSA...28..215I. doi:10.1364/JOSA.28.000215.
  36. ^ Wigner, E. P. (1939), "On unitary representations of the inhomogeneous Lorentz group", Annals of Mathematics, 40 (1): 149–204, Bibcode:1939AnMat..40..149W, doi:10.2307/1968551, JSTOR 1968551, MR 1503456, S2CID 121773411
  37. ^ Robertson, H. P. (1949). "Postulate versus Observation in the Special Theory of Relativity" (PDF). Reviews of Modern Physics. 21 (3): 378–382. Bibcode:1949RvMP...21..378R. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.21.378.
  38. ^ Shankland, R. S.; McCuskey, S. W..; Leone, F. C.; Kuerti, G. (April 1955). "New Analysis of the Interferometer Observations of Dayton C. Miller". Reviews of Modern Physics. 27 (2): 167–178. Bibcode:1955RvMP...27..167S. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.27.167.
  39. ^ Dewan, Edmond M.; Beran, Michael J. (March 20, 1959). "Note on stress effects due to relativistic contraction". American Journal of Physics. 27 (7): 517–518. Bibcode:1959AmJPh..27..517D. doi:10.1119/1.1996214.
  40. ^ Hughes, V. W.; Robinson, H. G.; Beltran-Lopez, V. (1960). "Upper Limit for the Anisotropy of Inertial Mass from Nuclear Resonance Experiments". Physical Review Letters. 4 (7): 342–344. Bibcode:1960PhRvL...4..342H. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.4.342.
  41. ^ Drever, R. W. P. (1961). "A search for anisotropy of inertial mass using a free precession technique". Philosophical Magazine. 6 (65): 683–687. Bibcode:1961PMag....6..683D. doi:10.1080/14786436108244418.
  42. ^ Rindler, Wolfgang (1961). "Length Contraction Paradox". American Journal of Physics. 29 (6): 365–366. Bibcode:1961AmJPh..29..365R. doi:10.1119/1.1937789.
  43. ^ Feinberg, G. (1967). "Possibility of faster-than-light particles". Physical Review. 159 (5): 1089–1105. Bibcode:1967PhRv..159.1089F. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.159.1089.
  44. ^ Hafele, J. C.; Keating, R. E. (July 14, 1972). "Around-the-World Atomic Clocks: Predicted Relativistic Time Gains" (PDF). Science. 177 (4044): 166–168. Bibcode:1972Sci...177..166H. doi:10.1126/science.177.4044.166. PMID 17779917. S2CID 10067969. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 31, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2022.
  45. ^ Hafele, J. C.; Keating, R. E. (July 14, 1972). "Around-the-World Atomic Clocks: Observed Relativistic Time Gains" (PDF). Science. 177 (4044): 168–170. Bibcode:1972Sci...177..168H. doi:10.1126/science.177.4044.168. PMID 17779918. S2CID 37376002. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 31, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2022.

Further reading