TheTheory of the Top attained its great fame from both its monum- tal scope and its outstanding authors. In the early twentieth century, Felix Klein was known as a mathematician of world fame; Arnold S- merfeld, Klein's disciple, had acquired his reputation as a rising star of theoretical physics. By 1910, when the ?nal volume of this tr- tise was published, the names of Klein and Sommerfeld would signal to a student that a matter as complex as the top was presented in a most authoritative manner, from the perspective of both mathem- ics and physics. The work also stands out in other regards: by its sheer extent-four volumes comprising a total of almost a thousand pages-and by the time lag of about ?fteen years between inception and completion. Klein himself regarded the ?nal result as somewhat disjointed. Its "e;idiosyncratic disposition,"e; he re?ected in 1922, may be understood only by taking into account the historic circumstances at its inception in 1895; the developments between the ?rst and last parts derailed the project from its intended course, so that for the technical applications described in Volume IV "e;almost no use was made of the theoretical framework developed atthebeginning"e;[Klein 1922, p. 659]. Itseemsappropriate,therefore,torecallthehistoricalcircumstances under which this treatise was conceived and pursued. Felix Klein was not only a renowned mathematician, but also an entrepreneurial and ambitious university professor striving for a broader acknowledgment of mathematics as a cultural asset.
Theory of the Top. Volume I
Introduction to the Kinematics and Kinetics of the Top