Anomalies in the History of Relativity

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Scientific Paper
Title Anomalies in the History of Relativity
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Author(s) Ian McCausland
Keywords {{{keywords}}}
Published 1999
Journal Journal of Scientific Exploration
Volume 13
Number 2
Pages 271-290

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In November 1919 it was announced to the world that observations of a solar eclipse that occurred in May 1919 supported Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. That announcement was one of the most influential events of 20th-century science, since Einstein's instant rise to enormous fame arose directly from it. In spite of the confidence with which the announcement was made, however, it was later realized that the accuracy of the observations was insufficient to constitute a reliable confirmation of the phenomenon that was predicted. Furthermore, another of the formulas published in the general theory, for the variation in the perihelion of the planet Mercury, had already been derived by another scientist several years earlier using another method. In spite of the fact that the experimental evidence for relativity seems to have been very flimsy in 1919, Einstein's enormous fame has remained intact and his theory has ever since been held to be one of the highest achievements of human thought. The resulting deification of Einstein has had some unfortunate effects: critics of his theory are often dismissed as cranks, and the search for better theories has been inhibited. It is suggested that the announcement of the eclipse observations in 1919 was not a triumph of science as it is often portrayed, but rather an obstacle to objective consideration of alternatives.