Lass, Harry Formerly, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
Last reviewed:January 2021
- Arithmetic, or vector, n-space
- Contravariant vectors
- Line element of Riemannian geometry
- Geodesics in a Riemannian space
- Covariant differentiation
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The systematic study of tensors which led to an extension and generalization of vectors, begun in 1900 by two Italian mathematicians, G. Ricci and T. Levi-Civita, following G. F. B. Riemann's proposal concerning a generalization of Euclidean geometry. The principal aim of the tensor calculus (absolute differential calculus) is to construct relationships which are generally covariant in the sense that these relationships or laws remain valid in all coordinate systems. The differential equations for the geodesics in a Riemannian space are covariant expressions; they yield a description of the geodesics which is valid for all coordinate systems. On the other hand, Newton's equations of motion require a preferred coordinate system for their description, namely, one for which force is proportional to acceleration (an inertial frame of reference). Thus Albert Einstein was led to a study of Riemannian geometry and the tensor calculus in order to construct the general theory of relativity.
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