I found some rumors on the internet regarding Stückelbergs manuscript and it's role for the development of QED. In a comment on here somebody writes:

Crease and Mann say in their book The Second Creation (revised edition, Rutgers 1996) (page 143) that Stueckelberg “… in the army, was almost totally isolated from physics. Nonetheless, he apparently wrote up a lengthy paper – in English, for once – that outlined a complete and correct description of the renormalization procedure for quantum electrodynamics. Sometime in 1942 or 1943, he apparently mailed it to the Physical Review. It was rejected. “They said it was not a paper, it was a program, an outline, a proposal,” Stueckelberg remembered. … Stueckelberg was not a bitter man. … We asked if he had the manuscript, which would help him establish priority. “I never cared much about that question,” he replied. “I don’t know what happened to the original copy. I lost it, it completely disappeared. …”.

On this page while here I find the quote

Via anonymous email somebody informed me about the following anecdote: After Feynman won the Nobel Prize, Schwinger called him up and asked: "Now are you going to give Stueckelberg his notes back?" (The unknown author: This is anecdotal from a friend who is a theoretical physicist living in Boston whom I have known for 35 years. He told me this several years ago and I believe it to be true.)

And finally here Richard Bentley admits

I was the person who sent you an email some time ago regarding a physicist who called Feynman after he won the Nobel prize to ask him if he would now give Stueckelberg’s notes back. I was incorrect in the identification. My understanding now is that it was Sidney Coleman.

So my question is this: As implied by these quotes, could it really be that Stueckelbergs manuscript in fact disappeared, because Feynman got hold of it, never returned it and used it to develop QED? And could it be that this was in fact an open secret in the physics community, so that Sidney Coleman could have known about this and Murray Gell-Mann apparently even referred to Feynman diagrams as “Stueckelberg diagrams”?

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There seems to be enough evidence to believe that people were joking around about Stueckelberg's notes in 1965, when the Nobel prize was awarded to Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga, but I do not see how that implies conclusions in the last paragraph. If Schwinger or Coleman took it seriously they wouldn't be privately joking about it with Feynman, they'd be accusing him of plagiarism publicly. So would others. Crease and Mann's phrasing is odd, something can be an "outline" or a "complete and correct description", it can not be both. It also seems that the source of their assessment is Stueckelberg's recollection 50 years after the fact, and Stueckelberg himself makes no accusations against Feynman.

Looking deeper makes it even less credible. General accounts of renormalization were published by six people independently in 1946-48: Tomonaga, Kramers, Bethe, Lewis, Schwinger and Feynman. Tomonaga's paper appeared two years before Feynman's three 1948 papers, Bethe's one year before, and in that same Physical Review. Two out of three Feynman's papers were also in Physical Review. You'd think someone there would remember Stueckelberg's manuscript. Stueckelberg himself did not perish in World War II either. In fact, he published (with Rivier) a paper on renormalization in the same volume of Physical Review as the last two Feynman papers. But rather than being "complete and correct description", or even a general outline, it was a specific application to the magnetic moment of the neutron. Three years later, in 1951, he published another paper in Physical Review (with Peterman), on non-renormalizability of magnetic moment interactions with the electromagnetic field. It would be very strange for Stueckelberg to keep publishing in a journal he thought let Feynman plagiarize his manuscript, while staying silent about it. We'd have to believe in a vast cover-up conspiracy of physicists, in which Stueckelberg himself took part. An authoritative source on the history of renormalization is Cao's Conceptual Developments of 20th Century Field Theories, see also his long survey paper with Schweber.

Feynman's account was somewhat different from the other five, they directly identified divergent terms involving masses and charges, and removed them by redefining masses and charges. Feynman's algorithm was better structured and more efficient, he gave explicit rules of regularization known as "relativistic cutoff", under which redefinition of parameters does not involve divergent terms directly, and then let the cutoff parameter go to infinity to obtain the renormalized theory. This idea also appears in Stueckelberg-Rivier 1948 paper, which perhaps gave fuel to the anecdote. Pauli and Villars also used this approach in their 1949 paper, likely submitted before they read Feynman's. Stueckelberg's 1942 manuscript was not the first to anticipate renormalization. Subtraction of divergent terms was proposed by Dirac and Heisenberg in 1934, Weisskopf in 1936, and Kramers in 1938. But precision measurements of the spectrum of hydrogen and deuterium by Lamb-Retherford and Rabi, used to corroborate renormalization, were only obtained in late 1940s with instruments developed during the war, before that it was just an abstract idea.

These things happen, Fermat and Torricelli anticipated Leibniz's and Newton's calculus, respectively, Bolzano anticipated Weierstrass's analysis, Bullialdus, Borelli, Halley, Hooke and Wren conjectured the inverse square law for gravity before Newton, as he acknoweledged in Principia (except for Hooke), Clifford speculated in 1870 that gravity and matter are manifestations of the curvature of space. Some ideas are in the air and every discovery has precursors, it doesn't make it plagiarism.

As implied by these quotes, could it really be that Stückelbergs manuscript in fact disappeared, because Feynman got hold of it, never returned it and used it to develop QED? And could it be that this was in fact an open secret in the physics community, so that Sidney Coleman could have known about this and Murray Gell-Mann apparently even referred to Feynman diagrams as “Stueckelberg diagrams”

Feynman had eidetic memory and had no need to keep any manuscript. I heard him say that he could read off formulas on a page of a book he had read without opening it again. So the scenario is extreme.

If Wheeler was the referee of the paper when it was submitted to physical review and Feynman was asked his opinion, that would be enough for his brain's data banks.

We have a proverb in Greece: if my aunt had wheels she would be called a carriage.

It is also a well known fact that when ideas are ripe, they appear in more than one place independently when similar minds work on the same problems, for example calculus by Newton and Leibniz.

In this biography

A big advance in theoretical physics was the renormalization programme in quantum field theory. At the 1948 Solvay congress, Oppenheimer insisted on preserving covariance in all steps of the calculation if one wants to eliminate the infinities which otherwise occur. He then quoted Stueckelberg's 1934 paper as giving an example of such a covariant theory. This was not Stueckelberg's only contribution to the renormalization programme, however, for in the early 1940s he wrote a long paper outlining a complete and correct description of the renormalization procedure for quantum electrodynamics. He sent it to the Physical Review, but it was rejected. As Stueckelberg later recalled:-

"They said it was not a paper, it was a programme, an outline, a proposal ...

He then set about filling in all the details but Schwinger and Feynman published their version first and Stueckelberg received no recognition for his remarkable contributions. In 1965 Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger and Richard P Feynman were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics:-

The peer review system developed in the west ensures the dates of results. Without a published source or not even the manuscript and with the author not interested in retaining rights, the question is moot. The credit anyway went to three people.

It is a bit like a formal athletic event. The rules have to be followed for the prizes to be given. Even if the jump was longer, the wrong stepping discredits it. And in physics there are no next year races.

  • Feynman had eidetic memory? That is new to me. At least he is not on this list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. But he is believed to have had synesthesia, see this list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – asmaier Mar 14 '16 at 8:03
  • He said he could read off a formula from the visualization of the page of a book. I call that eidetic memory. – anna v Mar 14 '16 at 9:01

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