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Dr. Alfred A. Robb

Lisnabreeny House
United Kingdom

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Robb, Dr. Alfred A.     (Easy Link:

Nationality: English
Born: 1873
Died: Sunday, December 13, 1936 (Age 63)

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1936Geometry of Time and Space
1921The Absolute Relations of Time and Space
1914A Theory of Time and Space
1911/2008Optical Geometry Of Motion - A New View Of The Theory Of Relativity


Alfred Arthur Robb studied mathematics at Cambridge, physics under J. J. Thomson, and wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the Zeeman effect under Woldemar Voigt at G?ttingen in 1904.  Regarded by historians as an early advocate of relativity theory, Robb was actually critical of Einstein?s proposals.  Adopting non-Einsteinian principles of relativity, Robb authored four books and numerous papers on the time, relativity, and simultaneity.  He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1921.

Obituary: Joseph Larmor, Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, V2, N6 (Jan 1938), pp. 315-321,

Group photo including Robb & J. J. Thomson: "The Post-Graduates at the Cavendish Laboratory in 1898-99" from The Life of John Cunningham McLennan, University of Toronto Physics

Discussion of Robb?s ideas:

Non-flattering personal description: "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism and Other Essays, 1914-19 (Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell), by Bertrand Russell" [p. 334],

Robb?s Poetry:

Books by Dr. Alfred A. Robb

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The Absolute Relations of Time and Space

by Dr. Alfred A. Robb

Pages: 80
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1921
ISBN: 0548802858
ISBN: 978-0548802854

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Contemporary review by Dr. Harry Bateman, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, V28, N6, p. 318 (1922).

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Geometry of Time and Space

by Dr. Alfred A. Robb

Pages: 408
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1936
ISBN: B0017USS24
ISBN: B00085LPN8

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A revised 2nd edition of his 1914 book, A Theory of Time and Space.

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Optical Geometry Of Motion - A New View Of The Theory Of Relativity

by Dr. Alfred A. Robb

Pages: 38
Publisher: W. Heffer & Sons
Year: 1911/2008
ISBN: B00088W4RG
ISBN: 054861458X
ISBN: 978-0548614587
ISBN: 1408637138
ISBN: 978-1408637135

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Depending on your definition of "dissident", Optical Geometry Of Motion may be the very first dissident book ever written.  Alfred Robb present a theory of relativity different from Einstein's by tackling the questions of time and space from the point of view of optics.  Long before Herbert Dingle, Robb addressed the issues of simultaneity, symmetry, and reciprocity, and arrived at some conclusions worthy of resurrection after nearly a century.


In placing before his readers the following brief ontline of a point of view, the writer is well aware that it is far from complete in many respects. He however believes that, in the first presentment of a theory, there are considerable advantages in stating explicitly only its principal features.

To cover up a general standpoint under a mass of detail is to run the risk of obscuring it altogether. There is always the danger that the reader may "not be able to see the wood for the trees" - a danger which is becoming very real in much modern mathematics.

The substance of the following essay was originally intended by the writer to form a chapter of a book of semi-philosophical character upon which he is engaged.

In view, however, of the amonnt of attention which the subject of Relativity is at present attracting, it seemed to him that this portion might prove of sufficient interest to warrant its separate pnblication.

From the standpoint of the pure mathematician Geometry is a brauch of formal logic, but there are more aspects of things than one, and the geometrician has but to look at the name of his science to be reminded that it had its origin in a definite physical problem.

That problem in an extended form still retaius its interest.


THE foundations of Geometry have been carefully investigated, especially of late years, by many eminent mathematicians. These investigations have (with the notable exception of those of Helmholtz) been almost all directed towards the Logical aspects of the subject, while the Physical standpoint has received comparatively little attention.

Speaking of the different "Geometries" which have been devised, Poincar? has gone so fitr as to say that: "one Geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient." In order to support this view it is pointecl out that it is possible to construct a sort of dictionary by means of which me may pass from theorems in Euclidian Geometry to corresponding theorems in the Geornetries of Lobatschefskij or Riemann.

In reply to this; it must he remembered that the 1auguage of Geometry has a certain fairly well defined physical signification which in its essential features must be preserved if we are to avoid confusion.

As regards the dictionary, me would venture to add that it would also be possible to construct one in which the ordinary uses of the words black and white were interchanged, but, ill spite of this, the substitution of the word white for the word black is frequently taken as the very type of a falsehood.

It is the contention of the writer that the axioms of Geometry, with a few exceptions, may be regarded as the formal expression of certain Optical facts. The exceptions are a few axioms whose basis appears to be Logical rather than Physical...

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A Theory of Time and Space

by Dr. Alfred A. Robb

Pages: 373
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 1914

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