Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Cabot Science Library welcome renowned theoretical physicist S. JAMES GATES and award-winning author CATHIE PELLETIER for a discussion of their new co-authored book, Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe.
In 1911, a relatively unknown physicist named Albert Einstein published his preliminary theory of gravity. But it hadn’t been tested. To do that, he needed a photograph of starlight as it passed the sun during a total solar eclipse. So began a nearly decade-long quest by seven determined astronomers from observatories in four countries, who traveled the world during five eclipses to capture the elusive sight. Over the years, they faced thunderstorms, the ravages of a world war, lost equipment, and local superstitions. Finally, in May of 1919, British expeditions to northern Brazil and the island of Príncipe managed to photograph the stars, confirming Einstein’s theory.
At its heart, this is a story of frustration, faith, and ultimate victory—and of the scientists whose efforts helped build the framework for the big bang theory, catapulted Einstein to international fame, and shook the foundation of physics.
“This is a fascinating and exciting adventure tale! It chronicles the quest of eclipse-chasing astronomers who strove to test if light deflected when passing near the sun according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Their inspiring missions depict the graceful ballet between scientific theory and experiment. In an age when we are searching for the horizons of black holes and the ripples from the origins of the universe, this book will inspire us with the ongoing excitement of understanding our cosmos.” —Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
“With a scientist’s authority and a novelist’s skill, this fascinating book captures the pioneering efforts to put Einstein’s theory to the test, and offers insightful portrayals of the brilliant and intrepid scientists who led the enterprise.” ―Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal and author of On the Future
“It’s all there—adventure, science, history and drama—and wonderfully told.”
―Michael S. Turner, cosmologist, author of The Early Universe, and inventor of the term “dark energy”
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.