Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I

Matthew Stanley. Dutton, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-524745-41-7
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 Arthur 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)
Reviewed on : 03/11/2019
Release date: 05/21/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-5247-4542-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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