Einstein and the Revolution in Science


  • Mark Walsh


On the 7th of November 1919, The Times of London displayed a dramatic headline: Revolution in Science. New Theory of the Universe; Newtonian ideas overthrown.1 The previous day, about 150 scientists, mathematicians and philosophers had crammed into an extraordinary meeting of the Royal Society in Piccadilly. There they waited for Arthur Eddington, one of the world’s foremost astronomers, to announce the results of an experiment which took place the previous May. Eddington and his colleagues, in two teams, had travelled to Sobral, Brazil and the island of Principe off the west coast of Africa. Both sites were in the path of totality of a solar eclipse. The goal of the expedition was to observe how light rays from distant stars behave as they pass close to the sun. This involved photographing stars near the sun’s edge; something requiring eclipse conditions. After months of careful analysis, Eddington and his team announced to the world that the presence of a massive body like the sun  does indeed cause light rays to bend. Or to put it another way: light has weight! Thus, the radical prediction of a Berlin physicist called Albert Einstein was confirmed.