Concept

Classical unified field theories

Résumé
Since the 19th century, some physicists, notably Albert Einstein, have attempted to develop a single theoretical framework that can account for all the fundamental forces of nature – a unified field theory. Classical unified field theories are attempts to create a unified field theory based on classical physics. In particular, unification of gravitation and electromagnetism was actively pursued by several physicists and mathematicians in the years between the two World Wars. This work spurred the purely mathematical development of differential geometry. This article describes various attempts at formulating a classical (non-quantum), relativistic unified field theory. For a survey of classical relativistic field theories of gravitation that have been motivated by theoretical concerns other than unification, see Classical theories of gravitation. For a survey of current work toward creating a quantum theory of gravitation, see quantum gravity. The early attempts at creating a unified field theory began with the Riemannian geometry of general relativity, and attempted to incorporate electromagnetic fields into a more general geometry, since ordinary Riemannian geometry seemed incapable of expressing the properties of the electromagnetic field. Einstein was not alone in his attempts to unify electromagnetism and gravity; a large number of mathematicians and physicists, including Hermann Weyl, Arthur Eddington, and Theodor Kaluza also attempted to develop approaches that could unify these interactions. These scientists pursued several avenues of generalization, including extending the foundations of geometry and adding an extra spatial dimension. The first attempts to provide a unified theory were by G. Mie in 1912 and Ernst Reichenbacher in 1916. However, these theories were unsatisfactory, as they did not incorporate general relativity because general relativity had yet to be formulated.
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