Hear from Matthew Stanley about how an unknown German and an Englishman on opposite sides of WWI together created a scientific revolution. In his 2019 book, Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I (Dutton), Stanley details how British astronomer Arthur Eddington first encountered Albert Einstein’s revolutionary theory of general relativity in 1916, right in the middle of he so-called “Great War” and at a point in which the physical and ideological lines between Britons and Germans could not have been more stark.
Einstein’s theory was the first complete revision of our conception of the universe since Isaac Newton and the friendship between Eddington and Einstein eventually bridged the divide between their home countries and served to enlarge and deepen the scientific conversation across the globe.
We usually think of scientific discovery as a flash of individual inspiration, but here we see it is the result of hard work, gambles and wrong turns.Einstein's War is a celebration of what science can offer when bigotry and nationalism are defeated. Using previously unknown sources and written like a thriller, it shows relativity being built brick-by-brick in front of us, as it happened 100 years ago.
Matthew Stanley is professor of the history of science at NYU Gallatin. He holds degrees in astronomy, religion, physics, and the history of science and is interested in the connections between science and the wider culture. He is the author of Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I (Dutton, 2019), the story of how pacifism and friendship led to a scientific revolution. He has also written Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington (Chicago 2007) and Huxley’s Church and Maxwell’s Demon (Chicago 2014), which explore the complex relationships between science and religion in history. His current project is a history of scientific predictions of the end of the world. Stanley has also worked with a nationwide National Science Foundation-funded effort to use the humanities to improve science education in the college classroom. He has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, the British Academy, and the Max Planck Institute. He currently runs the New York City History of Science Working Group. He has published two academic books and has written for Physics Today, Physics World and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He has a podcast, What the If?!?, and has appeared on documentaries on the History Channel, BBC and NPR. Stanley was awarded the 2019 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award and the 2014-2015 Gallatin Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.