No Shadow of a Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse That Confirmed Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Princeton University Press
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On their 100th anniversary, the story of the extraordinary scientific expeditions that ushered in the era of relativity

In 1919, British scientists led extraordinary expeditions to Brazil and Africa to test Albert Einstein’s revolutionary new theory of general relativity in what became the century’s most celebrated scientific experiment. The result ushered in a new era and made Einstein a global celebrity by confirming his dramatic prediction that the path of light rays would be bent by gravity. Today, Einstein’s theory is scientific fact. Yet the effort to “weigh light” by measuring the gravitational deflection of starlight during the May 29, 1919, solar eclipse has become clouded by myth and skepticism. Could Arthur Eddington and Frank Dyson have gotten the results they claimed? Did the pacifist Eddington falsify evidence to foster peace after a horrific war by validating the theory of a German antiwar campaigner? In No Shadow of a Doubt, Daniel Kennefick provides definitive answers by offering the most comprehensive and authoritative account of how expedition scientists overcame war, bad weather, and equipment problems to make the experiment a triumphant success.

The reader follows Eddington on his voyage to Africa through his letters home, and delves with Dyson into how the complex experiment was accomplished, through his notes. Other characters include Howard Grubb, the brilliant Irishman who made the instruments; William Campbell, the American astronomer who confirmed the result; and Erwin Findlay-Freundlich, the German whose attempts to perform the test in Crimea were foiled by clouds and his arrest.

By chronicling the expeditions and their enormous impact in greater detail than ever before, No Shadow of a Doubt reveals a story that is even richer and more exciting than previously known.

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About the author

Daniel Kennefick is associate professor of physics at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is the author of Traveling at the Speed of Thought: Einstein and the Quest for Gravitational Waves and a coauthor of An Einstein Encyclopedia (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 30, 2019
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Pages
403
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ISBN
9780691190051
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Science / History
Science / Physics / Relativity
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Since Einstein first described them nearly a century ago, gravitational waves have been the subject of more sustained controversy than perhaps any other phenomenon in physics. These as yet undetected fluctuations in the shape of space-time were first predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity, but only now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, are we on the brink of finally observing them.

Daniel Kennefick's landmark book takes readers through the theoretical controversies and thorny debates that raged around the subject of gravitational waves after the publication of Einstein's theory. The previously untold story of how we arrived at a settled theory of gravitational waves includes a stellar cast from the front ranks of twentieth-century physics, including Richard Feynman, Hermann Bondi, John Wheeler, Kip Thorne, and Einstein himself, who on two occasions avowed that gravitational waves do not exist, changing his mind both times.


The book derives its title from a famously skeptical comment made by Arthur Stanley Eddington in 1922--namely, that "gravitational waves propagate at the speed of thought." Kennefick uses the title metaphorically to contrast the individual brilliance of each of the physicists grappling with gravitational-wave theory against the frustratingly slow progression of the field as a whole.


Accessibly written and impeccably researched, this book sheds new light on the trials and conflicts that have led to the extraordinary position in which we find ourselves today--poised to bring the story of gravitational waves full circle by directly confirming their existence for the very first time.

This is the single most complete guide to Albert Einstein's life and work for students, researchers, and browsers alike. Written by three leading Einstein scholars who draw on their combined wealth of expertise gained during their work on the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, this authoritative and accessible reference features more than one hundred entries and is divided into three parts covering the personal, scientific, and public spheres of Einstein’s life.

An Einstein Encyclopedia contains entries on Einstein’s birth and death, family and romantic relationships, honors and awards, educational institutions where he studied and worked, citizenships and immigration to America, hobbies and travels, plus the people he befriended and the history of his archives and the Einstein Papers Project. Entries on Einstein’s scientific theories provide useful background and context, along with details about his assistants, collaborators, and rivals, as well as physics concepts related to his work. Coverage of Einstein’s role in public life includes entries on his Jewish identity, humanitarian and civil rights involvements, political and educational philosophies, religion, and more.

Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the theory of general relativity, An Einstein Encyclopedia also includes a chronology of Einstein’s life and appendixes that provide information for further reading and research, including an annotated list of a selection of Einstein’s publications and a review of selected books about Einstein.

More than 100 entries cover the rich details of Einstein’s personal, professional, and public lifeAuthoritative entries explain Einstein’s family relationships, scientific achievements, political activities, religious views, and moreMore than 40 illustrations include photos of Einstein and his circle plus archival materialsA chronology of Einstein’s life, appendixes, and suggestions for further reading provide essential details for further research
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