Examples of the Zeroth Theorem of the History of Science

J. D. Jackson
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


The zeroth theorem of the history of science, enunciated by E. P. Fischer, states that a discovery (rule,regularity, insight) named after someone (often) did not originate with that person. I present five examples from physics: the Lorentz condition, partial_{mu}A^{mu} = 0, of the electromagnetic potentials; the Dirac delta function delta (x); the Schumann resonances of the earth-ionosphere cavity; the Weizsacker-Williams method of virtual quanta; the BMT equation of spin dynamics. I give illustrated thumbnail sketches of both the true and reputed discoverers and quote excerpts from their "discovery" publications.