Most conservation laws are exact, or absolute, i.e., they apply to all possible processes; a few conservation laws are only partial, holding for some types of processes but not for others. By the beginning of the 20th cent. physics had established conservation laws governing the following quantities: energy, mass (or matter), linear momentum, angular momentum, and electric charge. When the theory of relativity showed (1905) that mass was a form of energy, the two laws governing these quantities were combined into a single law conserving the total of mass and energy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.