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I'm interested in learning about the application mathematics to the field of physics. I.e., Newton's calculus is essential for understanding and applying his law of motion F = ma, and I'm curious if Tensor calculus was invented before or after Einstein used it in General Relativity.

Would/should a historical-big-list type question: "What came first, the mathematics or the physical theory?," get closed?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems a bit general. Why not ask more specific questions, e.g. a specific question about tensor calculus and GR? $\endgroup$ – Matt E Oct 28 '10 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ The answer to your last question is right in the Wikipedia article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tensor#History (Also, "after" doesn't make any sense. At latest, it would be "during," right?) $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Oct 28 '10 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ You should check that whatever specific question you ask is not answered in the standard online resources, or at least explain why the available information is not what you were hoping for. Questions answerable by URIs to Wikipedia are bad questions! $\endgroup$ – Mariano Suárez-Álvarez Oct 28 '10 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ From what I remember Einstein was taught Tensor calculus before applying it to relativity. An apparently he had a pretty hard time with it too $\endgroup$ – crasic Oct 28 '10 at 20:40
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I agree with Matt, make the question a bit more specific, and it would be reasonable, but this version is just so general. Plus, much of this has been discussed in different questions on MO. Examples include Quantum Algebra, Particle phys and Representation Theory, Matrix Factorization, ODE's in Physics, Category Theory in Physics, and this is just the beginning!

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