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FitzGerald, George Francis

experiment publish contraction detect

(1851–1901) Irish physicist: suggested the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction to explain the failure of the Michelson–Morley experiment to detect the ‘ether’.

FitzGerald was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, remaining there as a professor for the rest of his life. Although he did not publish much original work himself, he was influential in 19th-c physics through his informal suggestions and discussions with others, tending to pass on ideas to experimenters rather than publish them himself. He is chiefly remembered for his hypothesis that, in order to explain the failure of the experiment to detect the ‘ether’, bodies moving through an electromagnetic field contracted slightly in their direction of motion, in proportion to their velocity. This accounted for light appearing to move at the same speed in all directions. The same idea was also developed by , becoming known as the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction, and was an important stepping stone towards theory of relativity. FitzGerald also proposed that the tails of comets are made up of small rock particles, and that solar radiation pressure is responsible for the fact that their tails always point away from the Sun.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila (1941–) - Russian History [next] [back] Fisher, Sir Ronald Aylmer

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