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Physics Colloquium – Daniel J. Kennefick
May 3, 2019 @ 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Daniel J. Kennefick, University of Arkansas
No Shadow of Doubt: The 1919 Eclipse and General Relativity
This is the centenary year of the celebrated eclipse expeditions of 1919 which confirmed Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. In recent decades, the story of these expeditions has focused on Arthur Stanley Eddington and the question of his alleged bias in favor of Einstein’s theory. It has been alleged that Eddington threw out data which did not favor Einstein’s theory. Meticulous examination of the expeditions’ papers reveals that this view is mistaken. The relevant data was taken by the expedition organized by the Greenwich observatory and it was the director of that observatory, the Astronomer Royal, Frank Watson Dyson, who was responsible for the decisions in question. Studies of the data analysis sheets and comparison with modern re-analysis of the original plates vindicate his decision.
The story of the two expeditions is a remarkable one and this talk will examine the people, the instruments, and the science of the teams and how their work changed science forever.