Physically Insignificant, Historically Noteworthy
A Study of Erich Bessel-Hagen’s “Über die Erhaltungssätze der Elektrodynamik”
Keywords:History of Physics, General Relativity, History of Mathematics, Erich Bessel-Hagen
This article is a “biography” of a 1921 article by the German scholar Erich Bessel-Hagen, entitled “Über die Erhaltungssätze der Elektrodynamik” (On the Conservation Laws of Electrodynamics). Writing at the behest of his mentor Felix Klein, Bessel-Hagen used Emmy Noether’s now-famous theorems to derive conservation laws for electrodynamics that result from the conformal invariance of Maxwell’s equations. Though his article went almost entirely unnoticed in its time, its history provides a fresh look at the activities and relationships of the Göttingen scholars whose research drove the growth and refinement of general relativity. In addition, the steady increase in citations of Bessel-Hagen’s article over the past century offers a case study of the way that changing networks of scholars, and the resulting changes in conceptions of disciplinary boundaries, affect an article’s readership and impact.
Copyright (c) 2022 Claire Murphy
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The author(s) retains all rights to this work, including future publications, provided that the author(s) includes a full reference or link to the original as it appears in The Journal of the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science. This agreement incorporates the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/).