46 votes
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What led to the fall of Göttingen?

It's not exactly the war, but the Nazi regime more generally that caused the decline of Göttingen. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they started implementing antisemitic measures quite quickly. ...
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  • 3,682
42 votes
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Why did no one else, except Einstein, work on developing General Relativity between 1905-1915?

From the rough understanding of the physics of the era I have, I would say there are at least two main reasons as to why it is actually quite expected that finding a relativistic theory of gravity ...
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  • 1,001
29 votes

What was the motivation for Minkowski spacetime before special relativity?

Not quite. Minkowski had the idea of representing special ralativity as geometry in 1907 under the direct influence of Einstein's 1905 paper, and he developed it in Raum und Zeit (1907) and Zwei ...
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26 votes
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How was Einstein led to make a contact with Differential Geometry for his theory of General Relativity?

Einstein himself told the story in his Kyoto address of 1922, which I quote from Pais's biography titled Subtle is the Lord: "If all systems are equivalent, then Euclidean geometry cannot hold in ...
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23 votes

What was the relationship between Einstein and Minkowski?

A good account is Weinstein, Max Born, Albert Einstein and Hermann Minkowski's Space-Time Formalism of Special Relativity. They did no have much of a relationship, what it was is well-summarized by ...
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22 votes
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When and why did the concept of relativistic mass become outdated?

The "movement" against relativistic mass was started by Adler in 1987 with Does Mass Really Depend on Velocity, Dad? (his answer, "actually no, but don't tell your teacher"). It ...
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21 votes
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Did Lorentz remain an ether advocate till his death?

Lorentz did remain sympathetic to ether to the end. However, it was not necessarily to his original conception of ether, and it was not "despite the empirical successes" of special ...
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20 votes
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Why were 20th Century German scientists so impressive?

The general question is difficult to answer. Why were the British and Dutch scientists of 17-th century so impressive? Why was French science of the 18-th and 19-th century so impressive, especially ...
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18 votes
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Did Richard Feynman ever meet Stephen Hawking or comment on Hawking radiation?

I take that your primary goal is to know what Feynman thought of Hawking's work. While it is possible that they have met I would consider it unlikely given that Feynman mentioned several times how his ...
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17 votes

When and how was the geometric understanding of gauge theories developed?

I will focus on the history before the Yang-Mills paper. The first harbinger was the introduction of the scalar potential for the gravitational field by Lagrange in 1773. In 1864 Maxwell introduced ...
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17 votes
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When and how was the geometric understanding of gauge theories developed?

I'll focus on the geometry of Yang-Mills theories specifically, but as Conifold's answer points out, gauge theories were studied geometrically long before the work of Yang and Mills. The foreward to ...
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16 votes
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How did group theory enter quantum mechanics?

From Pais's book Inward Bound, chapter 13: Wigner had become interested in $n>2$ identical particle problem. He rapidly mastered the case $n=3$ (without spin). His methods were rather laborious; ...
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16 votes

Did amateurs ever produce important proofs or similar?

A case from this year is that of Aubrey de Grey. Aubrey de Grey, a biologist known for his claims that people alive today will live to the age of 1,000, posted a paper to the scientific preprint site ...
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15 votes

How did Stephen Hawking conduct research?

The basic answer is yes, he was dependent on a few nurses and a research assistant or two. From Wikipedia - the article you brought forth: Nurses were hired for the three shifts required to ...
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15 votes

How come we attribute the general theory of relativity to Einstein?

This seems a bit of a naive question to me. Einstein had been working on this problem for several years (starting as early as 1907), and had developed much of the physics by 1912. He greatly struggled ...
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15 votes
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Why did Einstein help in the development of the Quantum theory if he didn't agree with it?

Einstein made a number of contributions of momentous importance to quantum theory in the 'early days'. In 1905, his famous annus mirabilis, he published a paper on the photo-electric effect that laid ...
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15 votes

Articles published without their authors being aware

In theoretical physics, the celebrated 1948 Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, or αβγ paper on cosmic nucleosynthesis. Bethe's name was thrown in, unbeknownst to him, at first, as a practical joke, for which G ...
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14 votes

What was Einstein's motivation for relativity theory?

Let's talk about special relativity (1905) first, then general relativity (1915). The motivation for special relativity is stated clearly in the first sentence of Einstein's paper "On the ...
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13 votes
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Max Planck's reaction to Einstein's 1905 STR Paper

It seems not. See: A.Douglas Stone, Einstein and the quantum: The quest of the valiant Swabian (2013): [page 6] Planck was the first major figure to recognize Einstein’s seminal 1905 work on ...
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12 votes

What led to the fall of Göttingen?

It's worth noting that we can't just pin it down to "The Nazi regime" and we may have to just say "The Nazis." Take for instance the case of Landau. He could not be purged as such ...
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12 votes
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Why did Einstein develop General Relativity?

"Simply modifying" Newtonian gravity to have it spread at finite speed does not work if the finite speed is the speed of light. It was attempted by Laplace in his Celestial Mechanics (1799), who found ...
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11 votes

Why did Einstein help in the development of the Quantum theory if he didn't agree with it?

It's not true that Einstein rejected quantum mechanics completely. He acknowledged that it gave numerically accurate predictions in a wide variety of cases, as did any competent physicist by 1935. In ...
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11 votes
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What have we learned from Einstein's unsuccessful dream of unifying electromagnetism and gravity?

What we learned so far belongs to the realm of mathematics, or more generously formal side of theoretical physics, rather than knowledge of nature in the narrow sense. Namely, what effects different ...
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10 votes
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Was there a period of doubt in the history of the Higgs mechanism?

Not only was there such a period, but it lasted up until the LHC detection of the Higgs boson in 2012, and in a way it continues until today. Higgs boson is the quantum carrier of a scalar field, the ...
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10 votes
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Who said that essentially everything in theoretical physics had already been discovered?

The anecdote you have in mind concerns Max Planck and his advisor Philipp von Jolly who, in 1874, told the young Planck that it was probably not a great idea to study theoretical physics, since there ...
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  • 3,682
10 votes
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Was Dirac really trying to take the square root of the Klein-Gordon operator?

One routinely speaks of the Dirac operator as a square root of the Laplacian (or Dalembertian as the case may be), and Dirac himself rather supports this heuristic in his Recollections of an exciting ...
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10 votes
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Did Feynman develop QED based on Stueckelberg's manuscript?

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 ...
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10 votes
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Who did say that anyone who discover a new particle should be fined instead of receiving a prize?

According to a slide deck I found, it was Willis Lamb. Quote from said deck: In 1955, Willis Lamb started his Nobel Prize acceptance speech by saying that “maybe physicists discovering a new ...
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