Of the five major papers Einstein published in 1905, which is most cited?
To be precise, let us use the citations listed in the November 2004 Science Citation Index, which lists 3826 citations for the five papers listed below. Which has the most citations? Try guessing first! To see the answers, click the ? or just scroll down. Here are the candidates:
"On the electrodynamics of moving bodies."
Einstein solves problems in electrodynamics with a new theory of space and time, based on the principle of relativity and the postulate of the invariance of the speed of light. The theory is an essential part of modern particle physics and the first step to the general theory of relativity.
"Does the inertia of a body depend on its energy content?"
Einstein realized that he had overlooked a consequence of special relativity that he now reported. Any quantity of energy E has an inertial mass of E/c 2. This equivalence is the foundation of atomic bombs and atomic power.
Einstein's doctoral dissertation
"A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions."
Einstein establishes the size of sugar molecules by examining two effects: how dissolved sugar increases the viscosity of water and how molecular motions lead to a diffusion of sugar through water.
"Brownian motion paper"
"On the motion of small particles suspended in liquids at rest required by the molecular-kinetic theory of heat."
Einstein predicts as a test of the molecular kinetic theory that small particles suspended in water will execute random motions visible under a micoscope. The paper plays a major part in establish the scientific respectability of atoms. It is also a founding document in the theory of stochastic processes.
"Light quantum/photoelectric effect paper"
"On a heuristic viewpoint concerning the production and transformation of light."
Although the most successful theory of nineteenth century physics accounted for light as a wave motion, Einstein now established that high frequency heat radiation behaves thermodynamically as if it were composed of localized quanta of energy. It is the first paper that clearly enunciates that quantum phenomena will lead to the failure of classical theory.
OK. Now you know the answer. Can you explain why that one is the most cited?
John D. Norton
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA 15260. Homepage: www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton
This page is available at www.pitt.edu/~jdnorton/goodies