Relativity in History

Posted by barb on Aug 12, 2005 in Science Musings |

Last weekend I started researching the history of relativity — how was it recieved when it was first presented to the world? who were the dissenters? how was it presented to the general public? I can’t say much about the project that I’m working on (but, trust me, it’s really cool — afterall, I was working on a Saturday and I was excited about it).

I found a few fun things:

  • When Einstein’s lectures and book were advertised in Japan, the title was translated to “The Relations of Man to Woman”. There were large crowds, especially women, at the first few lectures and hundreds of the books were sold. After a few days, the tour sponsors were inundated with requests for refunds. (From “Einstein’s Theory Not Exactly What Japanese Expected”, Washington Post, January 14, 1923, p 25.)
  • A US Naval astronomer, Captain See, denounced Einstein and relativity after Lick Observatory published results on the bending of starlight which supported relativity.

    “I value highly the work of the Lick Obseravatory,” said Captain See, “but I regret to see it issue statements to the press which lend support to the discredited doctrine of relativity than which a greater piece of humbuggery has not appeared in any age.”

    (From “Astronomer Calls Einstein Plagiarist”, Christian Science Monitor, April 13, 1923, p 3.)

  • In a gossip-like column, Einstein’s ability to figure change is questioned. He and his wife had boarded a street car, and he paid the conductor. The conductor returned his change while Einstein was talking with his wife. Einstein distractedly counted his change, and belived the conductor had given him the wrong change.

    The [conductor] recounted the change deliberately, explaining the to professor that it was correct and then turned to the next passenger with a shrug of his shoulders and the remark, “His arithmetic is weak.”

    (From “Relativity Author Weak at Figuring, Car Man Declares”, The Washington Post, July 13, 1924, p ES9)

Not related to relativity, but way too entertaining not to include here:

The women of the future may have longer beards than the beared women of the circus today, in the opinion of Dr. Adolph Heilbron, if they continue the invasion of man’s doman of activities.

“As woman exercises more and more the functions formerly belonging to men,” Heilbron writes in the Berlin Morgenpost, “she also begins to assume a masculine growth of hair.”

(Also from “Relativity Author Weak at Figuring, Car Man Declares”, The Washington Post, July 13, 1924, p ES9)


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