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The first years of relativity in Italy and the defeat of the “vectorialists” in Marcolongo's correspondence


Cattani, Carlo


Journal Reprints


Relativity Theory



Date Published:

January 2004




A. Einstein, Cesare Burali-Forti and Tommaso Boggio, Guido Castelnuovo, Tullio Levi Civita, Roberto Marcolongo, Bertrand Russell, Gregorio Ricci Curbastro, G. A. Maggi, Carlo Somigliana, Fundamentals of Relativity




Research Gate


In the most fruitful years of Relativity the Neapolitan mathematician Roberto Marcolongo plays a fundamental role in its diffusion (in Italy), following the setting (of the absolute differential calculus) and the beliefs of Tullio Levi-Civita. However from his correspondence1, as we will see, yes infers that he posed serious obstacles to the development of the formulation invariant (or of the dyads) proposed in vain by Tommaso Boggio of the University and Cesare Burali-Forti of the Military Academy, both from Turin. Marcolongo, in fact, was considered the main exponent of the so-called "vectorialists" or those who considered the formulation invariant, that is in terms of vectors and their suitable generalizations, as the only one formulation that can be proposed to legitimize any physical theory. On the other part, in trying to discover the weaknesses of the absolute differential calculus of Levi-Civita, he ends up becoming passionate about the covariant formulation and ne becomes the main disseminator, especially at conferences2 held at the Mathematical Seminary of Rome in 1919.

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