Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps: Empires of Time

Peter Galison

The problems of the late nineteenth century, including clocks and trains, telegraphs, and colonial invasion, served as an essential real-world backdrop to Albert Einstein’s huge theoretical discovery in general relativity. The answer was being worked out by two giants at the forefront of modern science: Albert Einstein, a young, obscure German physicist who was experimenting with time measurement through telephone networks and the coordination of clocks at train stations, and Henri Poincaré, president of the French Bureau of Longitude who was mapping time coordinates across continents. Each discovered that to comprehend the new global universe, he needed to establish a pure time where simultaneity was absolute or whether time was related to the present.

To tell the fascinating story of two scientists whose concrete and professional preoccupations engaged them in a silent race toward a theory that would conquer the empire of time, renowned historian of science Peter Galison has culled new information from rarely seen photographs, forgotten patents, and unexplored archives.