Book ID: CBB538235042

Einstein's War: How Relativity Conquered Nationalism and Shook the World (2019)


Stanley, Matthew (Author)


Publication Date: 2019
Physical Details: 400
Language: English

How an unknown German and an Englishman on opposite sides of WWI created a scientific revolutionIn 1916, Arthur Eddington, a war-weary British astronomer, opened a letter written by an obscure German professor named Einstein. The neatly printed equations on the scrap of paper outlined his world-changing theory of general relativity. Until then, Einstein's masterpiece of time and space had been trapped behind the physical and ideological lines of battle, unknown. Many Britons were rejecting anything German, but Eddington realized the importance of the letter: perhaps Einstein's esoteric theory could not only change the foundations of science but also lead to international co-operation in a time of brutal war.Few recognize how the Great War, the industrialized slaughter that bled Europe from 1914 to 1918, shaped Einstein's life and work. While Einstein never held a rifle, he formulated general relativity blockaded in Berlin, literally starving. His name is now synonymous with 'genius', but it was not an easy road. This was, after all, the first complete revision of our conception of the universe since Isaac Newton.Its victory was far from sure. Einstein spent a decade creating relativity and his ascent to global celebrity, which saw him on front pages around the world, also owed much to against-the-odds international collaboration, including Eddington's crucial, globe-spanning expedition of 1919 - which was still two years before they finally met - to catch a fleeting solar eclipse for a rare opportunity to confirm Einstein's bold prediction that light has weight.We usually think of scientific discovery as a flash of individual inspiration, but here we see it is the result of hard work, gambles and wrong turns. Einstein's War is a celebration of how bigotry and nationalism can be defeated and of what science can offer when they are. Using previously unknown sources and written like a thriller, it sheds light on science through history: we see relativity built brick-by-brick in front of us, as it happened 100 years ago.

Reviewed By

Essay Review Klaus Hentschel (2020) Weighing Light and Pondering Historiographies. Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology (pp. 383-387). unapi

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Jung, Tobias; (2008)
Albert Einstein: Revolutionär oder “Bewahrer des Alten”? (/isis/citation/CBB000930033/)

Article Wolff, Stefan; (2007)
Physiker im “Krieg der Geister”----Die “Aufforderung” von Wilhelm Wien (/isis/citation/CBB001024516/)

Article Wazeck, Milena; (2010)
The 1922 Einstein Film: Cinematic Innovation and Public Controversy (/isis/citation/CBB001036151/)

Book Crelinsten, Jeffrey; (2006)
Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity (/isis/citation/CBB000610302/)

Book Price, Katy; (2012)
Loving Faster Than Light: Romance and Readers in Einstein's Universe (/isis/citation/CBB001250414/)

Article Mota, Elsa; Crawford, Paulo; Simões, Ana; (2009)
Einstein in Portugal: Eddington's Expedition to Principe and the Reactions of Portuguese Astronomers (1917--25) (/isis/citation/CBB000932112/)

Book Peter Barker; Cecil G. Shugar; (1981)
After Einstein: Proceedings of the Memphis State Einstein Centenary Conference, March 14-16, 1979 (/isis/citation/CBB806017717/)

Book Evans, Andrew D.; (2010)
Anthropology at War: World War I and the Science of Race in Germany (/isis/citation/CBB001023150/)

Article Dyson, Freeman J.; (2012)
Is Science Mostly Driven by Ideas or by Tools? (/isis/citation/CBB001320450/)

Article Liu, Jian-hua; Qu, Yong-xin; (2005)
Historical review and thinking regarding the physical revolution in the 20th century (/isis/citation/CBB000503221/)

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, 100th Anniversary Edition. (/isis/citation/CBB094751102/)

Authors & Contributors
Harris, James J.
Stanley, Matthew
Wolff, Stefan L.
Wazeck, Milena
Sponsel, Alistair William
Simões, Ana I.
Physics in Perspective
British Journal for the History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Science in Context
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of Chicago Press
Princeton University Press
Oxford University Press
Memphis State Univ. Press
Revolutions in science
Science and culture
World War I
Einstein, Albert
Eddington, Arthur Stanley
Lenard, Philipp
Boccioni, Umberto
Hofmann, August Wilhelm von
Fischer, Emil Hermann
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century, late
20th century
Great Britain
United States

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment