The development of concept of "Field' to describe the events happening around us in connection with various interactions which operated at "action at a distance'
has very early beginning.
Faraday and Maxwell created one of history's most telling changes in our
physical worldview: the change from particles to fields.
As Albert Einstein put it,“Before Maxwell, Physical Reality …was thought of as consisting in material particles…. Since Maxwell's time, Physical Reality has been thought of as represented by continuous fields, ...and not capable of any mechanical interpretation.
This change in the conception of Reality is the most profound and
the most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.”
As the preceding quotation shows, Einstein supported a "fields are all there
is" view of classical (but not necessarily quantum) physics. He put the final logical touch on classical fields in his 1905 paper proposing the special theory of relativity, where he wrote "The introduction of a 'luminiferous' ether will prove to be superfluous."
For Einstein, there was no material ether to support light waves.
Instead, the "medium" for light was space itself. That is, for Einstein, fields are states or conditions of space. This is the modern view. The implication of special relativity (SR) that energy has inertia further reinforces both Einstein's rejection of the ether and the significance of fields. Since fields have energy, they have inertia and should be considered "substance like" themselves rather than simply states of some substance such as ether.
The general theory of relativity (1916) resolves Newton's dilemma concerning the "absurdity" of gravitational action-at-a-distance. According to general relativity, the universe is full of gravitational fields, and physical processes
associated with this field occur even in space that is free from matter and EM
Thus by 1915 classical physics described all known forces in terms of fields-
-conditions of space--and Einstein expressed dissatisfaction that matter couldn't be described in the same way.
However the real inroads into particle concept and an alternative field description or visualization came in with the advent of Quantum Field Theory.
the history of quantum field theory starts with its creation by Paul Dirac, when he attempted to quantize the electromagnetic field in the late 1920s. Major advances in the theory were made in the 1950s, and led to the introduction of quantum electrodynamics (QED). QED was so successful and accurately predictive that efforts were made to apply the same basic concepts for the other forces of nature. By the late 1970s, these efforts successfully utilized gauge theory in the strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force, producing the modern standard model of particle physics.
Let us try to visualise electrons.
Everywhere in space there is a field called the electron field.
A physical electron isn’t the field, but rather a localized vibration in the field.
Electrons aren’t the only particles to consist of localized vibrations of a field; all particles do. There is a field for every known particle say a photon, a quark, a gluon field and so on.
Even the recently discovered Higgs boson is like this. The Higgs field interacts with particles and gives them their mass, but it is hard to observe this field directly. Instead, we supply energy to the field in particle collisions and cause it to vibrate. When one says “we’ve discovered the Higgs boson,” you should think “we’ve caused the Higgs field to vibrate and observed the vibrations.”
This idea gives an entirely different view of how the subatomic world works. Spanning all of space are a great variety of different fields that exist everywhere. What we think of as a particle is simply a vibration of its associated field.
This has important consequences on the interaction of particles. For instance, consider a process in which two electrons are fired at one another and get scattered.
In the quasi-classical view of scattering, one electron emits a photon and then recoils. The photon travels to the other electron, which also recoils.
When the photon makes a quark and antiquark pair, the quark field is vibrating while the other two fields have no excitation.
Finally, when the quark and antiquark combine to make a gluon, only the gluon field has a vibration.
In the QFT approach, a vibration in the electron field induces a vibration in the photon field. The photon field vibration transports energy and momentum to another electron vibration and is absorbed.
In the well-known process where a photon converts into an electron and an anti-electron, the photon field vibrations are transferred to the electron field and two sets of vibrations are set up—one consistent with an electron vibration and the other consistent with the anti-electron.
This idea of fields and vibrations explains how the universe works at a deep and fundamental level. These fields span all of space. Some fields can “see” other fields while being blind to others.
The photon field can interact with the fields of charged particles but cannot see gluon or neutrino fields. On the other hand, a photon can interact indirectly with the gluon field, first by making quark vibrations which then make gluon vibrations.
Quantum fields are really a mind-bending way of thinking. Everything—and I mean everything—is just a consequence of many infinitely-large fields vibrating.
The entire universe is made of fields playing a vast, subatomic symphony. Physicists are trying to understand the melody.