In May of 1919, Arthur Eddington led a globe-spanning expedition to catch a fleeting solar eclipse. This was a rare opportunity to confirm Einstein’s bold prediction that light has weight. It was the result of this expedition—the proof of relativity, as many saw it—that put Einstein on front pages around the world.
Few books about events a century ago carry as relevant a message for today’s world of resurgent nationalism as does Matthew Stanley’s ... Stanley is a storyteller par excellence ... Stanley doesn’t confine the political story to Britain, Germany and, later, America but describes the disastrous flow of events in other countries as well ... In Stanley’s riveting, blow-by-blow account of Einstein’s struggle, he explains every scientific term and concept that is likely to be unfamiliar. The result is an unusually reader-friendly journey into relativity theory ... Stanley brings [Einstein and his colleague Eddington] vividly to life in his telling of their engagement with their science ... We know the ending of this 'messy adventure,' as Stanley terms it. That doesn’t prevent his splendid book from being a harrowing journey through a time when no one did know—when the outcome that has become part of history seemed unlikely.
A thrilling history of the development of the theory of relativity ... Few colleagues showed interest in theories of an obscure enemy scientist, but this did not prevent Eddington from initiating plans, even as the war raged, for the famous 1919 eclipse expedition. The author excels in explaining its surprisingly complex details, the tedious work required to tease out the minuscule bending of starlight that obeyed Einstein’s prediction, and the still stunning explosion of adulation that resulted when results were announced. Stanley gives history priority over science. His explanation of general relativity will be a stretch for readers unfamiliar with college physics, but he delivers a superb account of Edison’s and Eddington’s spectacularly successful struggles to work and survive under miserable wartime conditions.