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Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity

By: Jeffrey Crelinsten

397 pages, b&w illus

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Jun 2006 | #160984 | ISBN: 0691123101
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £32.95 $40/€37 approx

About this book

Dramatic story of how astronomers in Germany, England, and America competed to test Einstein's developing theory of relativity. Weaving a rich narrative based on extensive archival research, Jeffrey Crelinsten shows how these early scientific debates shaped cultural attitudes we hold today. The book examines Einstein's theory of general relativity through the eyes of astronomers, many of whom were not convinced of the legitimacy of Einstein's startling breakthrough. These were individuals with international reputations to uphold and benefactors and shareholders to please, yet few of them understood the new theory coming from the pen of Germany's up-and-coming theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein. Some tried to test his theory early in its development but got no results. Others - through toil and hardship, great expense, and perseverance - concluded that it was wrong. A tale of international competition and intrigue, Einstein's Jury brims with detail gleaned from Crelinsten's far-reaching inquiry into the history and development of relativity. Crelinsten concludes that the well-known British eclipse expedition of 1919 that made Einstein famous had less to do with the scientific acceptance of his theory than with his burgeoning public fame. It was not until the 1920s, when the center of gravity of astronomy and physics shifted from Europe to America, that the work of prestigious American observatories legitimized Einstein's work. As Crelinsten so expertly shows, the glow that now surrounds the famous scientist had its beginnings in these early debates among professional scientists working in the glare of the public spotlight.

In this impressively detailed yet readable scholarly work, Jeffrey Crelinsten examines the history of early attempts by astronomers to put Einstein's theory to the test... As well as casting new light on a neglected aspect of relativity studies, Einstein's Jury provides a fascinating analysis of science in action: the scrupulous weighing of evidence to assay--as far as is humanly possible--the truth of the matter. -- Peter D. Smith Times Literary Supplement By focusing on astronomers rather than the theoretical physicists more often associated with Einstein, Jeffrey Crelinsten offers new insights... He uses the introduction of the theory of relativity to present a case study of how innovative scientific ideas enter both the scientific community and the consciousness of the general public. Publishers Weekly Jeffrey Crelinsten's fascinating Einstein's Jury: The Race to Test Relativity tracks the ways in which one particular community, astronomers, handled Einstein's relativity theories, roughly between 1910 and 1925... Crelinsten has done a great service and deserves our thanks for tracking so beautifully the American astronomical response to relativity between the wars. -- Peter Galison Science Crisply written and impressively researched... [T]wo elements make Einstein's Jury stand out: First, it looks at astronomers, rather than physicists or mathematicians, providing a focus that comparatively offer a genuinely novel perspective on the question of relativity's reception... It belongs to that rare breed of works that will be of genuine interest and enjoyment to the casual reader while at the same time being required reading for the specialist. -- Suman Seth American Scientist Einstein's Jury tells a fascinating and largely unknown story of how Einstein's revolutionary ideas on the nature of space and time were received, understood, misunderstood, tested and finally confirmed by astronomers of the day, giving birth to relativistic cosmology. -- Alan S.McRae Mathematical Reviews


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 FINAL REFLECTIONS 321 How Scientists Accept Theories 321 Astronomers' Reception of Relativity 323 Relativity and Us 324 Notes 327 Bibliography 365 Index 385

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Jeffrey Crelinsten is an award-winning science writer and historian and president of The Impact Group, a private communications and research firm specializing in science and technology policy, communications, and education. He has written radio and film documentaries on Einstein and his theory of relativity for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), National Public Radio, and the National Film Board of Canada. His two-hour radio biography of Einstein, prepared for Einstein's 1979 centenary, was re-broadcast by the CBC in June, 2005. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

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