1905: Annus Mirabilis

1905 – Annus Mirabilis
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the Latin phrase Annus Mirabilis [“year of miracles”] first appeared in English text in a poem that commemorated the events of 1665-6.

Annus Mirabilis is a poem written by John Dryden published in 1667.

It commemorated 1665–1666, the “year of miracles” of London.

The title of Dryden’s poem, used without capitalisation, annus mirabilis, derives its meaning from its Latin origins and describes a year of particularly notable events.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dryden’s use of the term for the title of his poem constitutes the first known written use of the phrase in an English text.


According to Settled Science 1666 was a “year of miracles” because of Issac Newton.

In the year 1666, Isaac Newton made revolutionary inventions and discoveries in calculus, motion, optics and gravitation.

As such, it has later been called Isaac Newton’s “Annus Mirabilis.”

It was in this year when Isaac Newton was alleged to have observed an apple falling from a tree, and hit upon the law of universal gravitation (Newton’s apple).


However, 1666 was also a year of “great calamity” and “great tragedy”.

Despite the poem’s name, the year had been one of great tragedy, including the Great Fire of London.

Johnson writes that Dryden uses the term “year of miracles” for this period of time to suggest that events could have been worse.


In fact, the year was beset by great calamity for England (including the Great Fire of London), but Dryden chose to interpret the absence of greater disaster as miraculous intervention by God, as “666” is the Number of the Beast and the year 1666 was expected by some to be particularly disastrous.


1666 - Great Fire of London


Therefore, when Settled Science proclaims 1905 to be another “year of miracles” it’s worth taking a closer look.

The year 1905 has very much been linked to the term annus mirabilis, as Albert Einstein made important discoveries concerning the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and the special theory of relativity as well as the famous E = mc2.

His articles, collectively known as his Annus Mirabilis papers, were published in Annalen der Physik in 1905.


The Annus mirabilis papers (from Latin annus mīrābilis, “extraordinary year”) are the papers of Albert Einstein published in the Annalen der Physik scientific journal in 1905.

These four articles contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed views on space, time, mass, and energy.


1905 was definitely a “year of miracles” for Albert Einstein.

On 30 April 1905, Einstein completed his thesis, with Alfred Kleiner, Professor of Experimental Physics, serving as pro-forma advisor.

As a result, Einstein was awarded a PhD by the University of Zürich, with his dissertation entitled, “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions.”

That same year, which has been called Einstein’s annus mirabilis (miracle year), he published four groundbreaking papers, on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy, which were to bring him to the notice of the academic world.


1905 was definitely a “year of miracles” for Settled Science because Albert Einstein’s paper proposing “special relativity” allowed Settled Science to escape from harsh realities into a theoretical world of mathematical models that is only limited by the imagination.

In physics, special relativity (SR, also known as the special theory of relativity or STR) is the accepted physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time.

It was originally proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”.

The inconsistency of Newtonian mechanics with Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism and the inability to discover Earth’s motion through a luminiferous aether led to the development of special relativity, which corrects mechanics to handle situations involving motions nearing the speed of light.


In physics, spacetime (also space–time, space time or space–time continuum) is any mathematical model that combines space and time into a single interwoven continuum.


The Mathematical Bridge - Cambridge

The retreat of Settled Science from reality was further reinforced in 1905 when Albert Einstein promoted “statistical mechanics” in the context of Brownian molecular motion.

Einstein derived expressions for the mean squared displacement of particles.

Using the kinetic theory of fluids, which at the time was controversial, the article established the phenomenon, which was lacking a satisfactory explanation even decades after the first observation, provided empirical evidence for the reality of the atom.

It also lent credence to statistical mechanics, which had been controversial at that time, as well.


Statistical mechanics is a branch of theoretical physics and chemistry (and mathematical physics) that studies, using probability theory, the average behaviour of a mechanical system where the state of the system is uncertain.

Statistical mechanics is a collection of mathematical tools that are used to fill this disconnection between the laws of mechanics and the practical experience of incomplete knowledge.


The retreat of Settled Science from reality was further reinforced in 1905 when Albert Einstein encouraged Settled Science to develop [and exploit] a split-personality in his paper on the “photoelectric effect”.

Wave–particle duality is the concept that every elementary particle or quantic entity exhibits the properties of not only particles, but also waves.

It addresses the inability of the classical concepts “particle” or “wave” to fully describe the behavior of quantum-scale objects.

As Einstein wrote:
“It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do”.


The retreat of Settled Science from reality is wonderfully confirmed when mainstream sources misrepresent Albert Einstein’s 1905 equation of mass–energy equivalence as E = mc2.



Overall, Albert Einstein’s contribution in 1905 was to encourage Settled Science to retreat from reality into a mathematical world of models [aka mathematise – not in the OED].

Whilst Albert Einstein was enjoying his Annus Mirabilis Nikola Tesla was enduring his Annus Horribilis that saw most activities at Wardenclyffe Tower being “shut down” and his development of wireless power transmission being terminated.

Annus horribilis is a Latin phrase, meaning “horrible year”.


Wardenclyffe Tower, also known as the Tesla Tower, which began construction in 1901, was an early wireless transmission station designed by Nikola Tesla in Shoreham, New York and intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of wireless power transmission.

In May 1905, Tesla’s patents on alternating current motors and other methods of power transmission expired, halting royalty payments and causing a severe reduction of funding to the Wardenclyffe Tower.

By 1905, since Tesla could not find any more backers, most of the site’s activity had to be shut down.


Wardenclyffe Tower

Nikola Tesla learnt [the hard way] that inventors must plan to monetise their inventions because investors aren’t philanthropists – especially when there are competing innovators.

Financiers began investing in Guglielmo Marconi’s system which started regular transatlantic transmission in 1903 and seemed to be doing it with far less expensive equipment.

By 1903 Tesla’s project, still under construction due to numerous design changes, ran out of money and Morgan declined to fund it any further.

Some in the press began turning against the project claiming it was a hoax.

Tesla tried to generate more interest in Wardenclyffe by revealing its ability to transmit wireless electricity, but Morgan was not interested, and the 1903 “rich man’s panic” on Wall Street dried up any further investment.

By July 1904, Morgan (and the other investors) finally decided they would not provide any additional financing.

Between 1912 and 1915, Tesla’s finances unraveled, and when the funders wanted to know how they were going to recapture their investments, Tesla was unable to give satisfactory answers.


1905 turned into a good year for the Wright brothers when they finally cracked “long flights”.

The Wrights scrapped the battered and much-repaired aircraft, but saved the engine, and in 1905 built a new airplane, the Flyer III.

Nevertheless, at first this Flyer offered the same marginal performance as the first two.

Its maiden flight was on June 23 and the first few flights were no longer than 10 seconds.

After Orville suffered a bone-jarring and potentially fatal crash on July 14, they rebuilt the Flyer with the forward elevator and rear rudder both enlarged and placed several feet farther away from the wings.

They also installed a separate control for the rear rudder instead of linking it to the wing-warping “cradle” as before.

Each of the three axes – pitch, roll and yaw – now had its own independent control.

These modifications greatly improved stability and control, enabling a series of six dramatic “long flights” ranging from 17 to 38 minutes and 11 to 24 miles (39 km) around the three-quarter mile course over Huffman Prairie between September 26 and October 5.

Wilbur made the last and longest flight, 24.5 miles (39.4 km) in 38 minutes and 3 seconds, ending with a safe landing when the fuel ran out.

Wright Flyer III


But the Wright brothers encountered difficulties monetising their inventions and their preoccupation with legal issues gave the Europeans an opportunity to develop superior technology.

The Wright brothers wrote their 1903 patent application themselves, but it was rejected.

In January 1904 they hired Ohio patent attorney Henry Toulmin, and on May 22, 1906, they were granted U.S. Patent 821393 for “new and useful Improvements in Flying Machines.”

Curtiss refused to pay license fees to the Wrights and sold an airplane equipped with ailerons to the Aeronautic Society of New York in 1909.

The Wrights filed a lawsuit, beginning a years-long legal conflict.

They also sued foreign aviators who flew at U.S. exhibitions, including the leading French aviator Louis Paulhan.

The Curtiss people derisively suggested that if someone jumped in the air and waved his arms, the Wrights would sue.

European companies which bought foreign patents the Wrights had received sued other manufacturers in their countries. Those lawsuits were only partly successful.

Despite a pro-Wright ruling in France, legal manoeuvring dragged on until the patent expired in 1917.

A German court ruled the patent not valid because of prior disclosure in speeches by Wilbur Wright in 1901 and Chanute in 1903.

The Wright brothers won their initial case against Curtiss in February 1913 when a judge ruled that ailerons were covered under the patent.

The Curtiss company appealed the decision.

From 1910 until his death from typhoid fever in 1912, Wilbur took the leading role in the patent struggle, traveling incessantly to consult with lawyers and testify in what he felt was a moral cause, particularly against Curtiss, who was creating a large company to manufacture aircraft.

The Wrights’ preoccupation with the legal issue stifled their work on new designs, and by 1911 Wright airplanes were considered inferior to those of European makers.

Indeed, aviation development in the U.S. was suppressed to such an extent that when the U.S. entered World War I no acceptable American-designed airplanes were available, and U.S. forces were compelled to use French machines.


However, it’s always easier to monetise your invention if it can be militarised.

In 1917, with World War I underway, the U.S. government pressured the industry to form a cross-licensing organization, the Manufacturers Aircraft Association, to which member companies paid a blanket fee for the use of aviation patents, including the original and subsequent Wright patents.

The Wright-Martin company (successor to the Wright company) and the Curtiss company (which held a number of its own patents) each received a $2 million payment.

The “patent war” ended, although side issues lingered in the courts until the 1920s.


The Curtiss 18T, unofficially known as the Wasp and by the United States Navy as the Kirkham,[2] was an early American triplane fighter aircraft designed by Curtiss Engineering for the US Navy.

Curtiss 18T


Therefore, 1905 was an Annus Mirabilis that helped Settled Science get established in the 20th century by invoking three transformational verbs:
Mathematise, Monetise and [later] Militarise.

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3 Responses to 1905: Annus Mirabilis

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