Conceptual Problems and Developments of Electrodynamics

  • Jean Reignier
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (NSSB, volume 358)


One century ago, H.A. Lorentz (1853–1928), one of the most famous physicists of all times started a vast and ambitious scientific program based on the following combination of the laws of electromagnetism and the laws of mechanics (eq.1). This program aimed to understand all properties of matter and light, with the possible exception of gravitation. It was later on called “The theory of electrons”. This refers to the title of the book that Lorentz published at the turn of the century, and that contains the main results already obtained(1). Of course, at the very beginning of his work, Lorentz could not imagine that other types of forces exist (the discovery of radioactivity happened only in 1896), that Newton’s mechanics would be soon challenged by the relativistic mechanics (partly created by Lorentz himself within this program), and that the quanta would soon appear and considerably change the further development of the program. These changes were already made at Lorentz’s death, and he was then perfectly aware of the new situation. However, I guess that Lorentz would have been much surprised to learn that one century after the start, we do not yet know if the original program is feasible, i.e. whether or not the equations he used are mathematically consistent.


Quantum Electrodynamic Relativistic Version Classical Electrodynamic Mechanical Equation Fine Structure Constant 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Reignier
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Theoretische NatuurkundeVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Département de MathématiqueUniversité Libre de BruxellesBruxellesBelgique

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