Einstein:Book chapter 04 - The Galileian System of Co-Ordinates

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Albert Einstein: Relativity: The Special and the General Theory
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4: The Galileian System of Co-Ordinates

AS is well known, the fundamental law of the mechanics of <person>Galilei</person>-<person>Newton</person>, which is known as the law of inertia, can be stated thus:

A body removed sufficiently far from other bodies continues in a state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line. This law not only says something about the motion of the bodies, but it also indicates the reference-bodies or systems of co-ordinates, permissible in mechanics, which can be used in mechanical description. The visible fixed stars are bodies for which the law of inertia certainly holds for a high degree of approximation. Now if we use a system of co-ordinates which is rigidly attached to the earth, then, relative to this system, every fixed star describes a circle of immense radius in the course of an astronomical day, a result which is opposed to the statement of the law of inertia. So that if we adhere to this law we must refer these motions only to systems of co-ordinates relative to which the fixed stars do not move in a circle. A system of co-ordinates of which the state of motion is such that the law of inertia holds relative to it is called a "Galileian system of coordinates." The laws of the mechanics of <person>Galilei</person>-<person>Newton</person> can be regarded as valid only for a Galileian system of co-ordinates.