AN ECLIPSE FOR EINSTEIN
Total solar eclipses are dramatic, but few have been awaited more eagerly than the one in Brazil on 29 May 1919. At this eclipse, a British expedition made the first attempt to confirm (or refute) Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, published in 1916.
A key prediction of the theory was that a ray of light grazing the edge of the Sun would be bent by the Sun's gravity by a small, but detectable, amount. A total eclipse offered the only chance of "turning off" the Sun's light so that astronomers could measure the positions of background stars and find the deflection—if it existed.
The 1919 eclipse was the first for which major expeditions could be arranged following World War I (1914-18). Teams were sent to two separate sites in case of clouds, with one expedition headed by Britain's foremoist astrophysicist, Arthur Stanley Eddington.
After the eclipse, when the astronomers measured their photos, the deflection of starlight came out exactly as Einstein, had predicted. What made the eclipse notable ("and even poignant) at ' the time was that it was British astronomers confirming a theory developed in the depths, of wartime by a German physicist. Einstein (right) suddenly found his name blazoned across every newspaper. Literally overnight, he became the most famous scientist in the world.