Fred Strauch, Williams College

Tradition holds that special relativity emerged from Einstein’s 1905 paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.”  However, many of the phenomena that we consider consequences of special relativity—time dilation, length contraction, mass increase—were understood (if only partially) before 1905.  This understanding was part of an electromagnetic view of the world, in which the aether played a primary role.  In this talk I will revisit this history of special relativity in light of a calculation proposed by John Bell to illuminate (if only partly) how this worldview could persist after 1905.