On the Path of Albert Einstein

Part of the series Studies in the Natural Sciences pp 55-101

Revolution in Science: The 1919 Eclipse Test of General Relativity

  • Donald Franklin MoyerAffiliated withNorthwestern University

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“REVOLUTION IN SCIENCE/NEW THEORY OF THE UNIVERSE/NEWTONIAN IDEAS OVERTHROWN.”1 These were headlines in the Times of London on Friday, Nov. 7, 1919. Here the Times reported the extraordinary joint meeting of the Royal Society of London and the Royal Astronomical Society on the afternoon of the previous day where results obtained from the total solar eclipse of the twenty-ninth of May, 1919, were announced. The principal aim of the British observations of this eclipse was to test rival laws concerning the path of light passing near the sun. The Times reported that “The greatest possible interest had been aroused in scientific circles by the hope that rival theories of a fundamental physical problem would be put to the test, and there was a very large attendance of astronomers and physicists.” According to the Times report, the Astronomer Royal, Frank Watson Dyson, “convinced the meeting that the results were definite and conclusive” and it was “generally accepted” that Einstein’s relativity theory of gravitation had been confirmed and the Newtonian theory had been overthrown.