Two of the 20th century's greatest minds, one of them physicist Albert Einstein, came to intellectual blows one day in Paris in 1922. Their dispute, before a learned audience, was about the nature of time - mostly in connection with Einstein's most famous wo
One immediate result of the controversy: There would be no mention of relativity in Einstein's Nobel Prize, awarded a few months later.
One long-term result: a split between science and the humanities that continues to this day.
Jimena Canales, the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science at the University of Illinois, tells the tale of that day and the debate that followed in the new book "The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time."
The philosopher in the title, and Einstein's adversary that day, was Henri Bergson, a French philosopher who was much more famous at the time than the German-born Einstein. Presidents and prime ministers carefully read Bergson's work, and his public lectures often were filled to capacity. He was perhaps the pre-eminent public intellectual of his time, Canales said.
Bergson did not challenge Einstein's scientific claims about relativity, including the then-startling claim of time dilation, in which time slows down for objects traveling at higher speeds, Canales said.
What he challenged instead was Einstein's interpretation of those claims, saying it went beyond science and was "a metaphysics grafted upon science." He said that Einstein's theory did not consider time as it was lived in human experience, the aspects of time that could not be captured by clocks or formulas.To read more, click here.