In 1908 Walter Ritz identified seven areas of difficulty with regard to the
MaxwellLorentz electromagnetic field equations, which are
based on the concept of a solid deformable ether. (1) Electric and magnetic
forces really express relations about space and time and should be replaced
with noninstantaneous elementary actions (his emission theory). (2)
Advanced potentials don't exist (and their erroneous use led to the
RayleighJeans ultraviolet catastrophe). (3) Localization of energy in the
ether is vague. (4) It is impossible to reduce gravity to the same notions.
(5) The unacceptable inequality of action and reaction is brought
about by the concept of absolute motion with respect to the ether. (6)
Apparent relativistic mass increase is amenable to a different interpretation.
(7) The use of absolute coordinates, independent of all motions of matter,
requires throwing away the time honored use of Galilean relativity and
our notions of rigid ponderable bodies.

Historians of science generally recognize three early contenders in
the quest for a relativity theory consistent with the null result of the
MichelsonMorley experiment. These were H.A. Lorentz, Henri Poincaré,
and Albert Einstein. We might call these the three musketeers of
relativity.
It is not so well known but there was a relativity D'Artagnan as well.
He was Swiss physicist Walter Ritz. But Ritz died in battle and it seems as
though the Cardinal placed his ideas under the ban. They do,
however, surface from time to time.
This presentation, which is done in the spirit of "lifting the ban," combines
selected comments about Ritz's work by William Hovgaard, of M.I.T., in
1932 and by Myron Evans, of Wales, in 1997 [Professor Evans is the Director of
the
Alpha Foundation Institute for Advanced Study (AIAS).]
I'll inject a few remarks to enlarge on certain topics.
The Evans material is from his running commentary of a 1980 translation
of Ritz's 1908 critique on MaxwellLorentz. The quotes from his commentary are
used with his kind permission. Evans, who is proEinstein on relativity,
generated his commentary from fronttoback, one section at a time. He
found a surprise when he got to Ritz's relativistic considerations on mass,
length, and time. (A copy of the Ritz translation
is on this web site.)
Selected Hovgaard Comments on Ritz
Lorentz, the first of our relativity musketeers, stressed the fact that his
system of partial differential equations, was tied to the concept of a solid
ether electromagnetic field. (L2)
[Hovgaard] Lorentz regarded the ether as immobile... The earth was conceived
as moving through the ether without disturbing it and it followed that there
must be an "ether drift," which it should be possible to detect. But
this proved impossible. ...It was felt necessary to resort to new hypotheses.
[Enter musketeers number two and number three.]
Poincaré proposed to use Galilean relativity to resolve the problem. (The speed
of light c is relative to the source.) The sources and detectors were
moving at the same velocity, hence no speed of light variations were detected.
[Hovgaard] Einstein ... interpreted the MichelsonMorely experiments as
showing simply that the velocity of light was the same for an observer in
motion as for one at rest.(This is Einstein's second postulate of special
relativity.)
In 1921 Einstein asserted, "The spacetime theory and the kinematics of the
special theory of relativity were modelled on the MaxwellLorentz theory
of the electromagnetic field. (E1)

Enter the relativity D'Artagnan.
Walter Ritz, 1878  1909
In his detailed 1908 critique of MaxwellLorentz theory, Ritz
concluded that:
"The [MaxwellLorentz] partial differential equations and the notion of
ether are essentially inappropriate to express the comprehensive laws for
the propagation of electrodynamic actions."(172)
If Ritz's conclusion comes to be validated, then we are justified in
looking for those other creeks in which to paddle.
...
[Hovgaard] In 1908 [Ritz] published his first and most comprehensive
memoir on electrodynamics ... in which he subjected Maxwell's theory,
as modified by Lorentz, to a critical analysis and outlined a new theory
of electrodynamics. This memoir was followed by several papers on the
same and allied subjects such as the theory of the ether and of gravitation.
(H218)
[Ritz] Experiment has shown that [electrodynamic] actions are not
instantaneous; also it hasn't revealed any trace of a medium which could
exist in materially empty space. I therefore felt I could restrict myself to
give to the law of propagation of these actions, a very simple kinematic
interpretation, borrowed from the [Newtonian] emanative theory of light
and satisfying the principle of relativity of motion. [This is the same
relativity principle as proposed by Poincaré.]
[Ritz] Fictitious particles are constantly emitted in all directions by electric
charges. They keep on moving indefinitely in straight lines with constant
speed, even through material bodies. The action undergone by a charge
depends uniquely on the disposition, velocity, etc. of these particles in its
immediate surroundings.(150)
Ritz claimed that his mathematical model was exactly equivalent to
Lorentz's version of Maxwell. (He didn't get into the nuts and bolts of how
the actions were generated.) If he got the job done though, if his
model really is equivalent to Maxwell Lorentz, then problems with
his model are also problems with MaxwellLorentz.
...
[Hovgaard] Ritz proposed ...complete abandonment of the ether. Lorentz and
FitzGerald advanced the socalled "contraction hypothesis." according to which
all bodies should contract when they move through the ether..... Lorentz
accepted Einstein's theory, [the second postulate]and attempted at the same time
to uphold the theory of the ether, but this led to highly artificial and complicated
conceptions both in electrodynamics and optics. (H1219,220)
In keeping with MaxwellLorentz principles Ritz observed strict adherence
to the superposition theorem in his (1908) reasonings. (The superposition theorem
says that charged material particles, protons, electrons, etc., don't get in the way
of one another or cause reactive effects on the source field . Supposedly there is no
decrease in a charge's ability to affect distant charges as a result of its actions
imparted to intervening charges ). Ritz claimed the superposition viewpoint was
not in accordance with experimental evidence, and because of this, his
temporary version of Lorentz's views would be flawed with regard to the
speed of light in dispersive media.
Evans' Comments on
Critical Researches on General Electrodynamics
Introduction. (145152)
(The page and section numbering used here are from Ritz's original article.)
[Evans] Ritz set out to make incisive and helpful criticisms of the state of
electrodynamics, advocating the use of elementary actions rather than fields.
He traces difficulties, which he ascribes to a common origin, the concept of
ether, and uses the theory in the form given by Lorentz. This is the same in
most if not all textbooks now as in 1908. So the difficulties perceived then
are there now.
[Evans] On page 146 {Ritz} notes that electric and magnetic fields can be
eliminated entirely from the MaxwellLorentz theory and represent only
relations of space and time, ... He advocates a return to elementary
actions with the sole difference that they are not instantaneous (i.e. retarded
potentials). He notes on p. 147 that the [electromagnetic] field theory
[characterized by continuum partial differential equations] admits an infinite
number of solutions, only some of which are physical. The retarded
potential formalism eliminates unphysical solutions and introduces
irreversibility in time, while the field equations allow reversibility.
[Evans] The Maxwell Lorentz [field] theory (when integrated using retarded
Newtonian potentials) is delayed action at a distance. The only difference
from the older Clausius and Weber theories is that action in these theories
is instantaneous.. (157)
Part 2
[Evans] They really express relations about space and time
[Ritz] ".....the field never plays a role in pure ether. In fact, we can only determine
the field's magnitude and direction by placing a body and observing the mechanical
forces that it feels or rather its motions and those of the ions in its near vicinity,
motions which are indicated by luminous, thermal, chemical, etc. phenomena.
Therefore we know only F (force), and that only in points of x, y, z where there is
electrified matter, and we deduce E and H by reasoning ... . This is to say that it will
suffice, in all cases, to know the formula that gives F as the result of elementary
actions exerted by an element of charge on another element of charge, and that this
second representation is, with regard to the facts, exactly equivalent to the first one,
which is based on the field and its partial differential equations which only play a
purely mathematical role. We can if we please, dispense completely with the notions
of electric and magnetic fields."(161)
Maxwell's field equations, which are based on the idea of a solid ether, admit
time reversible solutions. Ritz held that electromagnetic phenomena are, in general,
irreversible because of radiation.(164)
He claimed that advanced potentials (future states affecting the present, i.e.
supplying energy to run present processes) have no place in reality.(164) (In a later
paper he stated that the RayleighJeans ultraviolet catastrophe derived from this
departure from reality. Ritz and Einstein argued this issue, along with the issue of
the origin of the second law of thermodynamics in 19081909, culminating in a joint
(1909) paper (RE) in which each author stated his opinion. This joint article was
Ritz's last published journal article.)
Ritz says that Lorentz chose to reject the idea of electromagnetic waves converging
on a charge by admitting that charged elements are the only points of origin for
disturbances.(170)
[Ritz] "...to eliminate the physically impossible solutions [of Maxwell's equations] it
only requires adoption a priori of the formulae for retarded potentials, which
distinguish the elementary actions as in the classical theories, and to prove that they
satisfy the equations is to say that they can replace them completely, whereas the
inverse is not the case." (171)
[Ritz] "...it is the formulae of elementary actions, and not the system of
partial differential equations, which is the complete and exact expression of
Lorentz's theory." (172)
[Ritz] "..energy can be expressed in the form of an integral extended over all
space. ... Maxwell admits...that each element of volume is effectively the seat of
a quantity of energy."(172)
"The [Poynting] theorem states itself elegantly in considering the energy as being
comprised of an indestructible fluid which moves parallel to the radiant vector."(173)
[Evans] The problem with this picture, as pointed out by Ritz, is that the extended
integral throughout space can be defined in an infinite number of ways. The
localization of energy is undetermined. Similarly, the flux of energy (the Poynting
Theorem) can be modified in an arbitrary way. Ritz summarizes this situation by
stating that
[Ritz] "The localization of energy must therefore be attributed to a
number of logically useless (and perhaps harmful) conceptions in the Maxwell
Lorentz theory."(176,177)
[Evans] This difficulty carries through into the definition of
photon in the later quantum theories.
[Ritz] "...as long as we have not introduced the hypothesis of retarded potentials,
a continuous portion of the energy, from converging waves coming from infinity,
remains just as possible as the lost energy that we observe in reality. If an engine
could perpetually draw energy from ether solely, independently of the presence
of material bodies, it could have perpetual motion."
[Evans] The most telling criticism by Ritz appears on p. 179.
[Ritz] "In the most general case of electromagnetic radiation, conservation of
energy is no longer a law, but a convention."(179)
[Ritz] "We can again say that the condition of stability of a continuous medium,
elastic or otherwise, is always such that the energy is minimum when deformation
is zero; here, [where the gravitational force is equal to zero] it is maximum;
the gravitational field would be in unstable equilibrium at infinity and wherever
the force is zero. ... The notion of field doesn't seem applicable to gravitation;
it shouldn't therefore be an issue to consider as a general base for the explanation
of physical phenomena." ..."On the contrary, the law of elementary action which
results from Lorentz's theory, if we replace electric charges by masses, can, as in
the similar laws of Weber, Gauss, etc., replace the classical law of gravitation..."
(180)
This is mathematics. The nuts and bolts aren't here. In a later article on gravitation
(R2) he hypothesized that spinning atomic charges produce gravity through high
order residuals of magnetic interactions. (Ritz was proposing spinning charges in
1908. He does mention Lorentz's idea on the subject.
[Ritz] "Zöllner's explanation, adopted by Lorentz, is as we know, that the attraction
of two electrical charges of opposite sign, is slightly less than the repulsion of two
charges of like sign and of the same absolute value. This explanation destroys the
unity of the electric field, and is thus applicable only to elementary actions."(181)
[Ritz] "With the ether acting on ions without undergoing action itself, [this is
related to the superposition principle] Newton's principle [of action and reaction]
is not satisfied by Lorentz's theory, ...... can we, from the viewpoint of the facts,
draw from this inequality of action and reaction an objection to Lorentz's theory?
The answer is affirmative. (181) .....the inequality of action and reaction
constitutes therefore a serious objection to Lorentz's theory." (183)
[Evans] He supports this objection with reference to the experiment, on the
pressure of light on material in [the best available] vacuum.(184)
[Ritz] "If we are content with the forces exerted by ions on one another existing
without the intervention of an intermediate, such as ether, then the finite speed
of propagation leads to the lack of simultaneity and to the inequality of actions
of ions on one another when they are separated ...." (185)
[Ritz] "We...use Poincaré's example, the recoil of an artillery piece and the
force experienced by a body that transmits a wave of radiant energy in a certain
direction are absolutely analogous, which is not the case when, instead of using
this model, we consider the energy to be propagated (the ether theory)."(185)
[Evans] About fifty years or more later Jackson ... summarized the way in which
this [radiative] recoil was introduced in the [19031904] AbrahamLorentz
equation of motion... . it was not present in the original Lorentz theory ... .
This is a problematical equation with unphysical runaway solutions. It is not
rigorous or fundamental ...
Ritz is a currently recognized, widely referenced, authority on vibrations in solids.
[Evans] The most serious difficulty of all is that the transversal view of radiation
propagating in ether violates the third law of Newton, because this view is based
on the MaxwellLorentz theory without the reaction corrections of Abraham and
Lorentz. ... Ritz describes clearly ... that an ether supporting only transverse
propagation is mechanically unstable because it has zero resistance to compression.
[He] concludes that such an ether does not exist, and follows Schwarzschild in
showing that the MaxwellLorentz theory is equivalent in all respects to
DELAYED action at a distance. Action and reaction are not equal and
instantaneously opposite in the MaxwellLorentz theory.
[Evans] Ritz rejects the transversality condition in the pure ether, or vacuum, as
early as 1908. ... Nearly ninety years later, this question is still being discussed,
despite the fact that there is so much accumulated evidence to show that the
transversality condition is a false imposition on a linear, incomplete, theory,
Maxwell Lorentz electrodynamics.
Ritz's theory employed Galilean relativity and offered a rationale for how
the magnitudes of electrodynamic forces could be functions of relative
velocities, between force carrying particles and electrical charges rather
than masses being relativistically variable.
On Ritz's interpretation of Kaufmann's experiments on magnetic and
electrical bending of fast electrons (beta rays):
[Ritz] "...instead of a mass becoming infinite when we approach the
speed of light, we would have forces that are annulled because they
propagate precisely with the velocity of the mobile electron." (194)
[Ritz] "Kaufmann's experiments can equally be interpreted by modifying
the existing laws of Electrodynamics in a manner that eliminates absolute
motion and by making the electrodynamic mass constant.(196)
Part 3
[Evans] ... Ritz discusses special relativity. Here, I am less sure that
Ritz grasped the full significance of the special theory of relativity, but
since that theory was only three years old at the time of writing (1908)
this is not surprising. He is reluctant to accept Einstein's 1905 paper,
preferring the earlier suggestions by Poincaré and Lorentz.
Evans goes to bat for Einstein's two postulates of relativity and then
states:
[Evans] This notwithstanding, the criticisms of the 1905 paper by
Melbourne Evans in about 1960 are valid. It is time that the academic
physicists considered this analysis. However successful, the logical
basics of special relativity are troublesome. Similar problems appear
in QED, as described most vividly by Feynman himself. Ritz senses
this trouble with special relativity, but in my own opinion he does not
give Einstein the credit due to him. Perhaps there was an element of
personal rivalry, as is so often the case in reallife physics.
[Evans] Ritz finds the FitzGeraldLorentz contraction impossible to
swallow:
[Ritz] "It is evident that this hypothesis confuses our notions of solids,..."
and "Does the assertion of the reality of this contraction have any sense?
It results, from the researches of Einstein, to which we return later on,
that the answer is negative." [The idea is that the contractions are only
observationally apparent.]
[Evans] We are led to expect that Ritz will now regurgitate the Einstein
theory without criticism, but he does not. This is either very perceptive
or a lack of understanding of Einstein's reasoning, I am not sure which.
He accepts the need to eliminate absolute motion as addressed by
Lorentz, Poincaré and Einstein, 1903 to 1905:
[Ritz] "If therefore we do not wish to admit that the speed of light
depends on that of bodies emitting it, and is purely relative, like all
speeds (and the ether concept alone prevents drawing out of the relativity
principle this so natural consequence) we will have to modify the
definition of time."
[Evans] There is an inherent contradiction in this
understanding of the Einstein Principle, the signal velocity c is a universal
constant and Lorentz invariant. This at once abolishes and uniquely depends
on the ether, according to Ritz. ...
[Evans] Repeated readings of these characteristically brilliant criticisms
by Walter Ritz has led me to conclude that he rejected, at least in part,
the notion of invacuo electromagnetic transversality. The idea of ether
was firmly rejected and with it, the notion of light propagation in a
strange elastic medium (lightether or lichtaether) which supports only
transverse waves with no resistance to compression and with unstable
mechanical equilibrium.
[Evans]... Ritz leaves open the question of whether the Fresnel diffraction
experiments prove transversality or not. ...With this single, but important,
reservation I feel that Ritz almost certainly rejected transversality in the
vacuum as early as 1908, at a point when the new Lorentz theory was in
its relative infancy and by no means widely accepted
Ritz knew that the speed of light aspect of his preliminary hypothesis
was not consistent with Fizeau's experiment on the entrainment of waves.
It was a result of his insistence on honoring the superposition theorem.
(His fictitious particles were not affected in their actions on matter.)
He did this to be faithful to Lorentz's model. (It is as though D'Artagnan
was fighting with one hand tied behind his back.) He planned a revision,
... but he died in 1909, at age 31, and his work languishes.
Perhaps the time is right for more musketeers.
References
(E1) Einstein, A., Sidelights on Relativity (1922 translation), p. 11.
(E2) Evans, M., Commentary on Ritz's 1908 electrodynamics article.
His commentary, which is proEinsteinan in outlook, was prepared as an
accompaniment to an English translation of the Ritz article, that is "slated"
to appear in the online journal Apeiron. [The translation was never
submitted, (author had other irons in fire) but Professor Evans kindly gave
permission for his comments to be used in this Philadelphia NPA paper.
12 Feb 2005.]
(H1) Hovgaard, W., Ritz's Electrodynamic Theory, Math & Phys,
218, (19311932)
(L1) Lorentz. H.A., Theory of Electrons910)...(ref is incomplete)
(R1) Ritz, W., Recherches Critiques Sur L'Electrodynamique Generale;
Ann. de Chim. et de Phys3, 145 (1908). For an English translation of
this work, see:
Critical Researches on General Electrodynamics.
(R2) Ritz, W., La gravitation, Scientia, 10, 2, (1909).
(RE) Ritz, W., and A. Einstein,
Phys. Zeits.,10, 323, (1909).
For an English translation and commentary on this article, see,
Fritzius, R., The RitzEinstein Agreement to Disagree, Physics
Essays, 3, 371, (1990).
A reprint of this article is on this web site.
Postscripts
For a current Pro Ritz viewpoint I recommend the 1995 "History of
Physics" article titled
Walter Ritz as a theoretical physicist and his research on the theory of
atomic spectra, by M.A. El'yaschevich, N.G. Kembrovskaya, and L.M.
Tomil'chik which appeared in Uspekhi Fizicheskikh Nauk, Vol
165, pp. 435455. The article, in English, touches on 23 of Ritz's 25
publications. In addition to the technical details in the history, the
authors make the following statements about Ritz and how his ideas
have been handled. Page numbers in parentheses are from thir article.
"..his [Ritz's] actual role in the prehistory of theoretical spectroscopy was
much more significant than is usually accepted, and the real scale and
originality of his personality have not yet been given proper
acknowledgement." (p. 435)
"His untimely death was bitterly regretted by such scientists as Rayleigh,
Sommerfield and Rozhdestvenskií." (p. 436)
"While describing the scientific work of Ritz, it should be stressed that
the modern historiography devoted to him is extremely scanty." (p. 436)
"Analysis of the elastic and magnetic atomic models proposed by Ritz to
explain spectral regularities is completely absent; ..." (p. 436)
"Practically no reference is made to Ritz's works in the account of the
history of electrodynamics, although they, undoubtedly are worthy of this.
The only publication in the world which is specifically devoted to his
scientific activity as a whole seems to be an article by the American
science historian Forman published in volume 11 of the multivolume
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited in 1976 (Charles
Schribner, New York). Regretfully, this excellently written and very
informative essay is as little known to physicists as the complete works
collection itself." (p. 436)
"The astonishing, although now little known, fact remains that Ritz
managed to construct mathematical models from which one can
logically derive, as natural consequences, analytical expressions for
the spectral terms and their differences which not only excellently
fitted the experiments, but were also confirmed later on by the
quantum theory. " (p. 437)
"...it is necessary to emphasize that one cannot agree with the purely
negative assessment of Ritz's studies on electrodynamics which
constitute a very significant part of his scientific heritage." (p. 438)
"Usually attention is exclusively fixed on the point of Ritz's general
concept which is connected with denying one of the basic postulates
of special relativity theory, the principle of the independence of light
speed from the source velocity." (p. 438)
"In Ritz's studies on electrodynamics one can clearly distinguish the
critical and constructive parts, each of which is worth further historical
and methodological analysis." (p. 438)

Paul Forman's biography on Ritz, mentioned above, closes with the opinion
that the MichelsonMorley experiment, repeated in 1924 with astronomical
light sources, told against Ritz's theory. (For a counter argument see
John Fox's article, Evidence Against Emisson Theories,
Am. J. Phys., 67, 1 (1965).
