Book number: 91342 Product format: Hardback Author: STANLEY MATTHEW

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Bibliophile price £3.00
Published price £16.99

Sub-titled 'How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I', the book explores the birth of a world-changing idea in the middle of a bloodbath. It is a riveting exploration of the beauty of scientific creativity and the enduring horrors of human nature - two great forces battling in a story, the mind-bending theory of general relativity. The Great War was industrialised slaughter that bled Europe from 1914-18 and shaped Einstein's life and work. While he never held a rifle, he formulated general relativity while blockaded in Berlin, literally starving. He lost 50 pounds in weight in three months, unable to communicate with his most important colleagues, some of whom fought against rabid nationalism. Others were busy inventing chemical warfare. Being a scientist trapped a person in the powerplays of empire. Meanwhile, Einstein struggled to craft relativity and persuade the world that it was correct. This was after all the first complete revision of our conception of the Universe since Isaac Newton's, and its victory was far from certain. Scientists seeking to confirm Einstein's ideas were arrested as spies. Technical journals were banned as enemy propaganda. Colleagues died in the trenches. Einstein was separated from his most crucial ally by barbed wire and U-boats. This ally was the Quaker astronomer and Cambridge don A. S. Eddington, who would go on to convince the world of the truth of relativity and of the greatness of Einstein. Eddington in May 1919 led a globe-spanning expedition to catch a fleeting solar eclipse for a rare opportunity to confirm Einstein's bold prediction that light has weight. It was as a result of this that the proof of relativity as many saw it put Einstein on front pages around the world. This is an epic tale and celebration of how bigotry and nationalism can be defeated, and of what science can offer when they are. This moving and beautifully written account captures the heady thrills and the crushing setbacks amid the divided line that World War One had drawn across Europe. 390pp, illus.

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ISBN 9781524745417

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