Stanley (Huxley’s Church and Maxwell’s Demon), an NYU science history professor, places Einstein’s theory of relativity in valuable historical context in this impressive work of popular science. A century after its formulation, the theory stands as “one of the essential pillars” of modern scientific knowledge; but initially, Stanley explains, it went largely unnoticed. Thanks to the closed borders and national hatreds of WWI, it was blocked from wide dissemination outside Germany, particularly in Britain, where all things German were regarded with suspicion. Stanley dramatically relates how, by chance, in 1916, a summary of Einstein’s examination of time and space was received by one of the few British scientists both capable of and open to weighing the theory on its own merits, astronomer Stanley Eddington, who, like Einstein, was a pacifist and internationalist convinced that scientific discovery had no borders. He became the theory’s champion, and in 1919 performed an experiment during a solar eclipse to verify that, as Einstein thought, light has weight. Stanley’s well-told and impressively readable chronicle delivers a wider, and still relevant, message that how science is performed is inextricable from other aspects of people’s lives. Agent: Jeff Shreve, the Science Factory. (May)
Praise for Einstein’s War
"Stanley’s is a superb book, one that scientists, historians of science, and the general public will enjoy in equal measure. It is written for a wide audience. Those wary of technical jargon will be delighted by Stanley’s lucid explanations. With almost all books written in a generalist vein, there is some worry about what might be lost—however much else is gained—by not dwelling on the details provided in the academic work on which they are based. Einstein’s War, however, is that very rare work from which I came away understanding the scholarly literature better for having had its context presented to me in gripping and readable prose."
"Few books about events a century ago carry as relevant a message for today’s world of resurgent nationalism. . . . Stanley is a storyteller par excellence. . . . [His] riveting, blow-by-blow account of Einstein’s struggle . . . is an unusually reader-friendly journey into relativity theory. . . . Einstein and Eddington would have liked it.”
—The Washington Post
“A thrilling history of the development of the theory of relativity . . . a superb account of Einstein's and Eddington’s spectacularly successful struggles to work and survive under miserable wartime conditions.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Dissecting the debate over whether philosophical attraction to Einstein's views caused Eddington to skew his Principe data, Stanley affirms both the empirical integrity and the political bravery of this Briton's confirmation of a German's theory. The international human drama in epoch-making science.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Impressive work of popular science . . . Well told . . . Delivers a wider, and still relevant, message that how science is performed is inextricable from other aspects of people's lives.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[Stanley’s] book is simultaneously a brisk biography of two great scientists, a brief introduction to relativity, and a potted history of the First World War. But it is punchy and well-written, and full of signposts for readers who might want to delve more deeply into the fascinating subjects it explores.”
"Detailed and readable . . . It is especially revealing about Einstein’s scientific work and private life leading up to the momentous events of 1919."
"Lively chronicle of the development, spread, and ultimate acceptance of general relativity."
—The Wall Street Journal
“Fast moving and engaging.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Fans of popular science, Einstein, physics, and World War I will find this to be entertaining and informative.”
“[Stanley] skillfully interweaves the lives on Einstein and Eddington into a readable narrative.”
“[Stanley] succeeds in wrapping up the global, national, and scientific politics of an era in a compelling story of one man’s wild theory, lucidly sketched, and its experimental confirmation in the unlikeliest and most exotic circumstances.”
“This beautifully written, moving account captures the heady thrills and crushing setbacks of one of the great intellectual adventures of modern times.”
—David Kaiser, MIT, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics
“Profoundly absorbing . . . One of the greatest epics of scientific history—the grueling intellectual labor of Albert Einstein in Berlin, on one side of the dividing line that the First World War had drawn across Europe . . . and, on the other side of it, the efforts of Arthur Eddington in Cambridge, one of Einstein’s few supporters. . . . It was Eddington’s achievement that at last established Einstein’s for the world at large; and all this . . . amidst the intellectual indifference and near-universal xenophobia of their fellow scientists on both sides. An amazing story.”
—Michael Frayn, author of the Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen
“Einstein, at thirty-five, was living and working in the heart of Berlin when the guns of World War I began firing. The bloody, seemingly endless conflict provoked everything he detested: violence, nationalism, and the herd-thinking that drove individuals into nothing. Matt Stanley gives us the scientist-philosopher and activist during these bloody years, tacking back and forth so effectively between the development of general relativity, plans to test it, and the lopsided battle Einstein fought with the majority of German intellectuals who lined up happily behind the battle lines. A great read about Einstein and the War that Made More Wars.”
—Peter Galison, Harvard University, author of Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps
“Even if you know a lot about the history of relativityeven if you know the old stories about Sir Arthur Eddington's voyage in 1919 to try to prove Albert Einstein's theories correctyou probably haven't pondered just how unlikely the Einstein/Eddington pairing really was. At a time when the mere hint of fraternization with the enemy could land you in jail as a spy, a Briton embraced the ideas of an enemy scientist and helped launch the legend of arguably the greatest physicist of modern times. A fascinating story.”
—Charles Seife, author of Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
“How an obscure German physicist became the first superstar of science . . . Stanley lets us share that excitement a hundred years later in this entertaining and gripping book. It’s a must read if you ever wondered how Einstein became ‘Einstein.’”
—Manjit Kumar, author of Quantum
Stanley (history of science, New York Univ.; What the If? podcast) tells the story of how Albert Einstein's theory of relativity became known and accepted around the world in this engaging text. When Einstein published his general theory of relativity in 1915, it was already one year into the Great War that would cause unimaginable death tolls in Europe. During World War I, from 1914 to 1918, it was illegal for scientists outside of Germany to spread or attempt to prove Einstein's work because he was a German citizen. After the war, though, astronomer Arthur Eddington traveled the world attempting to view a solar eclipse in order to prove the theory of relativity. During these trips, Eddington spoke openly about how Einstein's work would change the way humans understand the universe. After Eddington proved Einstein's theory, scientists finally acknowledged Einstein's contributions and he garnered critical acclaim. Because he has a deep understanding of the history of science, Stanley is able to convey the concepts discussed throughout in meaningful and accessible language. VERDICT Fans of popular science, Einstein, physics, and World War I will find this to be entertaining and informative.—Jason L. Steagall, formerly with Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI
A thrilling history of the development of the theory of relativity, "one of the essential pillars upholding our understanding of the universe."
Despite Einstein's sole billing, this outstanding history/biography gives equal billing to Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), the British astronomer who championed relativity. This year is the 100th anniversary of the year when proof of his theory, largely engineered by Eddington, made Einstein (1879-1955) a scientific superstar. In his first book for a general audience, Stanley (History of Science/New York Univ. Gallatin School of Individualized Study; Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science, 2014, etc.) chronicles the creation and acceptance of relativity against a background of the nasty nationalism of World War I. The author reminds readers that in 1905, Einstein described special relativity, a brilliant explanation of space, time, and motion. However, it did not explain accelerated motion, which includes gravity. Fixing that required years of labor, but Einstein succeeded in 1915 with general relativity. Einstein was a rare scientist among the warring nations who rejected often hateful patriotism. Eddington was another. Born a Quaker, he was a prodigy who studied at Cambridge and became a distinguished astronomer. As conscientious objectors, British Quakers suffered vicious persecution during the war, and it was only through the efforts of his superiors that he was spared. Eddington learned about relativity through a Dutch astronomer; intrigued, he became its leading British advocate. Few colleagues showed interest in theories of an obscure enemy scientist, but this did not prevent Eddington from initiating plans, even as the war raged, for the famous 1919 eclipse expedition. The author excels in explaining its surprisingly complex details, the tedious work required to tease out the minuscule bending of starlight that obeyed Einstein's prediction, and the still stunning explosion of adulation that resulted when results were announced.
Stanley gives history priority over science. His explanation of general relativity will be a stretch for readers unfamiliar with college physics, but he delivers a superb account of Edison's and Eddington's spectacularly successful struggles to work and survive under miserable wartime conditions.