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Test for Einstein’s theory of relativity

showing that space-time can warp London,

The round disc of the Moon surrounded by a halo of light from the Sun.
Total solar eclipse, 29 May 1919. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) described in his theory of general relativity how a massive body curves, or warps, the space-time around it, bending any ray of light that passes nearby. To prove his theory, Einstein suggested measuring how light from faraway stars was deflected as it passed near our local star, the Sun. The stars should shift slightly compared with their positions in the night sky at other times of the year, when the Sun is in a different part of the sky. However, the only time that this could be measured was when the Sun’s own light was blocked out - during a total eclipse. 

The eclipse of 29 May 1919 provided an opportunity for an English scientist to put Einstein’s theory to the test. Two teams set off from the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society (Greenwich and Cambridge observatories): one going to the island of Príncipe off the west coast of Africa led by Andrew Crommelin (1865-1939) and the other going to Brazil led by Arthur Eddington (1882-1944). Both teams returned confident that Einstein’s theory was proved correct. The findings were presented at the Royal Society in 1919 and Einstein became a global celebrity. 

Science Museum

Decade
Type
Physics,
Region
London
Location
Royal Society, London
Key Individuals
Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, Andrew Crommelin,