John D. Norton

  • Distinguished Professor • Teaching Practicum Director • Career Outcomes Director

Professor Norton studies the history and philosophy of physics (relativity, quantum theory, and statistical physics), with a special interest in general relativity, and has published extensively on the detailed steps of Einstein's discovery of general and special relativity and also on many aspects of the theory's philosophical foundations. He was a contributing editor to the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, volumes 3 and 4, and was recently associate editor and coeditor of Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. He also works in general philosophy of science, with emphasis on different approaches to confirmation theory, inconsistency in theories, and thought experiments. He is editor for philosophy of physics (space and time, general physics) for the Stanford On-line Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for which he wrote the article on The Hole Argument. In 2001, Norton was one of the founders of He has written recently on the "material theory of induction" and defended the power of induction from the underdetermination thesis and grue. He has also mounted a non-Humean critique of causation.

Selected Courses Taught

  • Philosophy of Science (graduate)
  • Theories of Confirmation (graduate)
  • Einstein for Everyone (undergraduate)

Professional Membership/Offices

  • Co-Founder and Executive Committee,
  • Contributing Editor to Archive for History of Exact Science (1996-present)
  • Associate Editor, Co-Editor of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (2001-2003)
  • Associate Editor, Philosophy of Science (1990-94)

Education & Training

  • PhD, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of New South Wales, 1982
  • BE (Chem Eng) Hon. 1, School of Chemical Engineering, University of New South Wales, 1974

Representative Publications

"Chasing the Light: Einstein's Most Famous Thought Experiment," prepared for Thought Experiments in Philosophy, Science and the Arts, eds., James Robert Brown, Mélanie Frappier and Letitia Meynell, Routledge.

"Approximation and Idealization: Why the Difference Matters," Philosophy of Science, 79 (2012), pp. 207-232.

"Waiting for Landauer," Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 42(2011), pp. 184-198.

"Challenges to Bayesian Confirmation Theory," Philosophy of Statistics, Vol. 7: Handbook of the Philosophy of Science. Prasanta S. Bandyopadhyay and Malcolm R. Forster (eds.) Elsevier,2011.

"Little boxes: A simple implementation of the Greenberger, Horne, and Zeilinger result for spatial degrees of freedom," American Journal of Physics, 79(2)(2011), pp. 182-188.