© 1998

Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher

  • Davis Baird
  • R. I. G. Hughes
  • Alfred Nordmann

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 198)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Hertz, Helmholtz and Their Experimental Culture

  3. Electrodynamics and the Discovery of Electromagnetic Waves

  4. The Principles of Mechanics

  5. Hertz’s Influence on Twentieth Century Science and Philosophy

  6. Postscript

    1. Jed Z. Buchwald
      Pages 269-280
    2. Alfred Nordmann
      Pages 281-305
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 307-324

About this book


The sub-title of this symposium is accurate and, in a curious way, promises more than it states: Classical Physicist, Modem Philosopher. Heinrich Hertz, as the con­ summate experimentalist of 19th century technique and as brilliant clarifying critic of physical theory of his time, achieved one of the fulfilments but at the same time opened one of the transition points of classical physics. Thus, in his 'popular' lecture 'On the Relations Between Light and Electricity' at Heidelberg in the Fall of 1889, Hertz identified the ether as henceforth the most fundamental problem of physics, as the conceptual mystery but also the key to understanding mass, electric­ ity, and gravity. Of Hertz's demonstration of electric waves, Helmholtz told the Physical Society of Berlin: "Gentlemen! I have to communicate to you today the most important physical discovery of the century. " Hertz, philosophizing in his direct, lucid, pithy style, once wrote "We have to imagine". Perhaps this is metaphysics on the horizon? In the early pages of his Principles of Mechanics, we read A doubt which makes an impression on our mind cannot be removed by calling it metaphysical: every thoughtful mind as such has needs which scientific men are accustomed to denote as metaphysical. (PM23) And at another place, concerning the terms 'force' and 'electricity' and the alleged mystery of their natures, Hertz wrote: We have an obscure feeling of this and want to have things cleared up.


Albert Einstein electrodynamics experimentation philosophy of science science

Editors and affiliations

  • Davis Baird
    • 1
  • R. I. G. Hughes
    • 1
  • Alfred Nordmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of South CarolinaUSA

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Heinrich Hertz: Classical Physicist, Modern Philosopher
  • Editors D. Baird
    R.I. Hughes
    A. Nordmann
  • Series Title Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 1998
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-0-7923-4653-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-90-481-4881-3
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-015-8855-3
  • Series ISSN 0068-0346
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XI, 324
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Philosophy of Science
    History, general
    History and Philosophical Foundations of Physics
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


`... unusually well-balanced anthology ... The editors...are to be congratulated for producing a superb introduction to Hertz scholarship.'
ISIS, 91:1 (2000)