Thursday, Apr. 05, 2007

The Theory

How was relativity received?

Scientists were unsure at first whether the general theory was right. But Einstein proposed a dramatic experiment. At the next appropriate eclipse, in 1919, scientists could measure how starlight passing close to the sun was bent by its gravity. The six-deck headline in the New York Times read: "Lights All Askew in the Heavens / Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations / Einstein Theory Triumphs." That was back when folks knew how to write great headlines. Einstein's launch into fame contributed to the birth of a new celebrity age. He became a scientific supernova and humanist icon, one of the most famous faces on the planet. The public earnestly puzzled over his theories, elevated him into a cult of genius, and canonized him as a secular saint.