The zeroth theorem

The Zeroth Theorem in the history of physics states that a discovery named after an individual often did not originate with that person.

It may be pompous and contrived (and let’s face, who ain’t?) but the zeroth theorem is surely worth a post since David “Orc” Jackson from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has done such a good job a-huntin and a-scourin for the scoundrels who’ve taken credit for things they ain’t done.

Orc Jackson says there ain’t no shortage of examples of the Zeroth Theorem in the history of science and his paper is full of em. Here are a few:

Avogadro’s number (6 x 10^23) was first calculated by Johan Loschmidt in 1865 at least 40 years before Avogadro was posthumously and mistakenly given the credit.

Olber’s paradox was discussed at least a 150 years before Olber was born

The Dirac delta function was invented by the English electrical engineer Oliver Heaviside 30 years before Paul Dirac published his version

And the Lorentz guage condition was dreamt up by a bloke with an almost identical name (Ludvig Lorenz) almost 40 years before Hendrik Lorentz published it in 1904

I can guess what ya’ll a-thinkin: who was this Zeroth bloke and whose idea did he steal for this theorem?

Ref: Examples of the Zeroth Theorem of the History of Physics

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