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Two of Einstein's discoveries explored

Nov. 26, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The worlds of philosophy and science will come together in a presentation on two of Einstein's discoveries Thursday, Dec. 4, at Western Michigan University.

Dr. John Norton, director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science, will discuss "Two Moments in Einstein's Discovery of Special Relativity" at 4 p.m. in the Political Science Library, Room 3301 of Friedmann Hall. His talk is free and open to the public.

Einstein developed the special theory of relativity after more than seven years of scrutiny of problems in electrodynamics. There are two famous moments in that process. The first happened at the very start, when a young Einstein imagined himself chasing a beam of light. The second happened some five or six weeks before the end when Einstein hit upon the decisive insight, the relativity of simultaneity. Norton will suggest new ways to understand both moments.

Norton was born and grew up in Sydney, Australia. He studied chemical engineering at the University of New South Wales from 1971 to 1974 and then worked for two years as a technologist at the Shell Oil Refinery at Clyde, Sydney. He then switched fields and began a doctoral program in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales. Norton's dissertation was on the history of general relativity, and he visited at the Einstein Papers Project during the 1982-83 academic year.

In 1983, Norton came to University of Pittsburgh as a visitor in the Center for Philosophy of Science and visitiEinstein's discoveries exploredng faculty member in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and has been in the department since. He was promoted to full professor in 1997, served as chair from 2000 to 2005 and, since 2005, has been director of the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Norton's WMU appearance is through the WMU Visiting Scholars and Artists Program and is sponsored by the departments of Philosophy and History and the Philosophy of Science Workshop.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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