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Hertz, Heinrich Rudolf (1857–94)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q046-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved August 14, 2020, from

Article Summary

Heinrich Hertz demonstrated the existence of radio waves in research between 1887 and 1888, opening the way for Marconi to develop long-distance radio communication. Hertz’s results confirmed Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, and sealed the fate of action-at-a-distance in physics. His theoretical analysis included the famous dictum: ‘Maxwell’s theory is Maxwell’s system of equations’. Hertz also developed a new formulation of Newtonian mechanics using the concepts of mass, length and time, but not force. He presented mechanics as the axiomatic consequence of a single fundamental law: ‘every free system persists in its state of rest or of uniform motion in a straightest path’. Hertz’s ideas influenced later philosophers of science but were most important as a source for Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which influenced logical positivism. Hertz’s proposal to eliminate the concept of force in physics was an important contribution to the twentieth-century ideal of a philosophical method that does not solve, but rather dissolves, philosophical problems.

Citing this article:
Barker, Peter. Hertz, Heinrich Rudolf (1857–94), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q046-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

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