Historical and philosophical reflections on the Einstein-de Sitter model

Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, Michael O’Keeffe, Simon Mitton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present some historical and philosophical reflections on the paper “On the Relation Between the Expansion and the Mean Density of the Universe”, published by Albert Einstein and Willem de Sitter in 1932. In this famous work, Einstein and de Sitter considered a relativistic model of the expanding universe with both the cosmological constant and the curvature of space set to zero. Although the Einstein-deSitter model went on to serve as a standard model in ‘big bang’ cosmology for many years, we note that the authors do not explicitly consider the evolution of the cosmos in the paper. Indeed, the mathematics of the article are quite puzzling to modern eyes. We consider claims that the paper was neither original nor important; we find that, by providing the first specific analysis of the case of a dynamic cosmology without a cosmological constant or spatial curvature, the authors delivered a unique, simple model with a straightforward relation between cosmic expansion and the mean density of matter that set an important benchmark for both theorists and observers. We consider some philosophical aspects of the model and provide a brief review of its use as a standard ‘big bang’ model over much of the 20 th century.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Physical Journal H
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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