Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity

Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity

5.0 2
by Jeffrey Crelinsten

ISBN-10: 0691123101

ISBN-13: 9780691123103

Pub. Date: 05/30/2006

Publisher: Princeton University Press

"There is no shortage of literature on Einstein and relativity, yet Crelinsten succeeds in providing a novel and fruitful perspective on how Einstein's theory of general relativity was received in its early years. By focusing on the astronomers rather than the physicists, and America rather than Europe, he adds a valuable chapter to the history of modern science in


"There is no shortage of literature on Einstein and relativity, yet Crelinsten succeeds in providing a novel and fruitful perspective on how Einstein's theory of general relativity was received in its early years. By focusing on the astronomers rather than the physicists, and America rather than Europe, he adds a valuable chapter to the history of modern science in which scientific and social aspects are treated equally and in the same compelling detail."—Helge Kragh, University of Aarhus, Denmark

"Jeffrey Crelinsten has written a wonderful book that fills an important gap in our knowledge of the reception and acceptance of general relativity in the scientific community: he focuses on the crucial role played by astronomers, particularly in the United States. In a fascinating account he describes how general relativity was tested and confirmed and how the new field of relativistic cosmology emerged out of this work. I wish this book had appeared earlier!"—A. J. Kox, University of Amsterdam

"An excellent book, with wonderful gems that arise out of the author's mastery of the literature. It will be enormously useful to Einstein scholars as well as to those interested in the history of astronomy."—Daniel Kennefick, University of Arkansas

"A fascinating and detailed story of the emergence of modern cosmology that reaches back to the debates over the validity of Einstein's theory of general relativity during the early decades of the twentieth century. This is an American tale of pragmatism and empiricism, of eclipse expeditions and of the intrepid spirit of those who built the world's largest astronomical observatories and discovered an expanding universe."—Diana Kormos Buchwald, Einstein Papers Project, Caltech

"An overwhelming accomplishment that surely will have a lasting impact on the history of the subject. So much is laid to rest about the dominance of the 'Eddington' 1919 eclipse result and its resulting PR as to be an eye-opener to many (to most) would-be-historians. [Crelinsten's] research into original sources is powerful and makes the case!"— Allan R. Sandage, Staff Astronomer Emeritus, The Observatories (Pasadena, CA) Carnegie Institution of Washington

"Since the 1960s, scientists have shown with exquisite precision that Einstein was right about relativity. But for relativity's first two decades (1910-1930), the case for Einstein was hardly a slam dunk. Jeffrey Crelinsten tells the exciting roller-coaster story of the early experimental tests of special and general relativity, from light deflection measurements to ether-drift tests. Believers debated skeptics, but in the end, the jury was swayed by the data. Crelinsten's tale reads like a scientific courtroom thriller."—Clifford Will, Washington University in St. Louis, author of Was Einstein Right?

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
List of Tables xv
Preface xvii
Introduction xxi
Notation Convention for Angular Measure xxv
Abbreviations xxvii

PART ONE: 1905-1911
Early Encounters with Relativity 1

CHAPTER ONE: Einstein and the World Community of Physicists and Astronomers 3
Einstein Enters the World Stage 3
The Astronomy Community 7
The Astrophysics Revolution 9
European Brains and American Money 20
California Astronomy: The Nation's Leader 25

CHAPTER TWO: Astronomers and Special Relativity: The First Publications 28
Henry Crozier Plummer and the Problem of Aberration 28
Edmund Taylor Whittaker: Relativity and the Ether 31
Relativity and Subjectivism 36
Using Relativity to Calculate Planetary Orbits 38
American Astronomers’ Introduction to Relativity 40

PART TWO: 1911-1919
Astronomers Encounter Einstein 45

CHAPTER THREE: The Early Involvement, 1911-1914 47
Einstein's Two Predictions 47
Solar Eclipses, "Vulcan," and the Principle of Relativity 50
Einstein Finds an Astronomer 55
Puzzles in the Sun's Spectrum 65
The Russian Eclipse of 1914 76

CHAPTER FOUR: The War Period, 1914-1918 85
Troubles with Freundlich 85
Einstein's Breakthrough 87
The "Freundlich Affair" 90
News of Einstein's Breakthrough Spreads 94
Mixed Reactions to a Complicated Theory 98
Constructing the Universe 103
Challenges from Solar Observations 108
Lick Astronomers Go Eclipse Hunting 114
Einstein Liberates Freundlich 119

CHAPTER FIVE: 1919: A Year of Dramatic Announcement 125
Evershed's Earth Effect versus Relativity 125
Delays and Technical Challenges at Lick 126
Enter the British 129
The Lick Verdict: "Einstein Is Wrong" 131
The British Declare, "Einstein Is Right" 140

CHAPTER SIX: Men of Science Agog 146
Reactions to the British Eclipse Results 146
Pressure from the Press 153
The Role of Arthur Eddington 157
Einstein the National Treasure 160
Hale Realizes His Vision 165

PART THREE: 1920-1925
Astronomers Put Einstein to the Test 169

CHAPTER SEVEN: Tackling the Solar Redshift Problem 171
Evershed and St. John Declare the Case Unresolved 171
"Einstein's Third Victory" 173
Unraveling Complexities—Evershed versus St. John 175
Evershed Votes for Einstein 179

CHAPTER EIGHT: More Eclipse Testing 183
Personnel Changes at Lick 183
Conflicting Announcements on the Goldendale Results 185
Preparations for the Australian Eclipse 194
The 1922 Eclipse: All Eyes on Lick 200

CHAPTER NINE: Emergence of the Critics 213
Reactions to the Lick Results 213
T.J.J. See versus the Lick Observatory 216
An Antirelativity Coalition in the East 225
The Ether Attempts a Comeback 231

CHAPTER TEN: The Debate Intensifies 236
Another Chance to Test Einstein 236
Mount Wilson and Lick Vote for Einstein 241
The Antirelativity Campaign Gains Momentum 243
Confrontation 252
A New Line of Evidence to Test Einstein 257

PART FOUR: 1925-1930
Final Acceptance 263

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Relativity Triumphs 265
The 1925 Eclipse: Dissension in the Antirelativity Coalition 265
The Relativity Debate circa 1925 269
Announcements for and against the Ether 273
Announcement of the Sirius B Results 277
John A. Miller and the Eclipse Tests 282
Dayton C. Miller and the Ether Drift 287
The 1928 Climax: Three More Pronouncements 290
Reluctant Acceptance 296

CHAPTER TWELVE: Silencing the Critics 300
Charles Lane Poor versus the Lick Observatory 300
Antirelativists Rally in the East 307
The Final Showdown 310

EPILOGUE: The Emergence of Relativistic Cosmology 315

How Scientists Accept Theories 321
Astronomers’ Reception of Relativity 323
Relativity and Us 324

Notes 327
Bibliography 365
Index 385

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Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This fluid and accessible work showcases the astronomy community's pivotal role in providing the 'proof' for Einstein's theory. This was a make or break moment in history - a true tipping point - and this book humanizes the context and provides new, intriguing insights into the political, social and scientific landscape of the times and, as importantly, sheds light on the players that had a hand in changing the way we now think of time and the universe. It was a surprisingly rivetting tale!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Given the hundreds of books about Albert Einstein, it is a wonder this story has not been told. 'Einstein's Jury' documents the physicist's twenty-five year struggle to win acceptance for relativity, a theory which most established scientists considered bizarre, metaphysical and incomprehensible. 'Einstein's Jury' is a cliff-hanger, with author Jeffrey Crelinsten calling the play by play as we follow Einstein toehold to toehold, struggling to climb the vertical wall leading to scientific acceptance. Crelinsten holds us in suspense. The scientific debate was nasty, even before the First World War split the jury further by pouring national prejudices on the flames. Acceptance was not a foregone conclusion: Einstein's jury debated for decades. To borrow a phrase from Wellington after the battle of Waterloo, the verdict was 'a damned close-run thing.' Crelinsten marshals his pro- and anti-Einstein forces brilliantly, using previously unpublished papers and letters to cover the knock-downs, slight advances, reverses and ultimate success.