Arthur Eddington’s scientific observations of a solar eclipse
Rise of Modern Science SCI110
-Scientific American Inc.
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Arthur Stanley Eddington was born December 28th, of 1882 in Kendal Westmorland England. He was the son of Quakers-his mother Sarah Ann Shout and his father- Arthur Henry Eddington. Arthur would be one of the best English astrophysicists of the early 20th century. Throughout his school and college he was awarded many scholarships. Eddington would have many accomplishments as he grew older. One of his many accomplishments was his observations, and knowledge of a solar eclipse. These observations would relate to some of Albert Einstein’s theories.
Eddington did a lot of work on this theory called the ‘Theory of General Relativity,’ this theory was General of gravitation was developed by Einstein in the years 1907 through the middle of 1915. In physics the Principle of relativity is the “requirement that the equations, describing the laws of physics, have the same form in all admissible frames of reference.” He was finishing his work on these theories and ‘space being shaped by presence of mass.’ Eddington was fascinated by Astronomy- He was an observer of the stars. After World War I was over, Eddington travelled to the island of Príncipe near Africa to watch the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919. He was accompanied by a few colleagues. Their task here was going to be to independently record the positions of the stars near the moon-blotted sun. Then they would compare them with the positions of the same stars at night. Eddington began taking many notes and pictures about the stars- specifically the stars in the region around the sun. “This was to test whether or not stars seen adjacent to the Sun’s limb would appear to have shifted away from the Sun and their normal position relative to each other, as predicted by Einstein’s
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general theory of relativity.” (European Space Agency, 2009) It happened to be in agreement with Einstein’s predicted value, even though it was not very easy to measure. This was the first test of the relativity theory.
This eclipse of 1919 seemed too good to be true. It lasted about seven minutes, which is a very long amount of time for an eclipse. This would provide plenty of opportunity for more measurements to be taken. Eddington had compared his photographs of the eclipse with images when the sun was not present. This was all in agreement with Einstein’s prediction- therefore validating the theory of relativity.
Even though scientists has always argued about Eddington’s errors, by saying that his “equipment was not sufficiently accurate to discriminate between the predicted effects of the rival gravitational theories,” (Sighn, 2009) Eddington still believed in Einstein’s theory and wanted to prove it true. He then subconsciously minimized his errors in order to achieve the correct results. He was hailed an important piece of science by author of “Eclipse,” by J.P McEnvoy. McEnvoy made an announcement of significance- “A new theory of the universe, the brain-child of a German Jew working in Berlin, had been confirmed by an English Quaker on a small African island.”
Arthur Eddington later died November 22nd, 1944 in Cambridge, Cambridge shire, England. He was a man of great theories. Eddington was a “gifted astronomer whose original theories and powers of mathematical analysis took his science a long way forward; he was a brilliant expositor of physics and astronomy, able to communicate the most difficult conceptions in the simplest and most fascinating language; and he was an able interpreter to philosophers of the significance of the latest scientific discoveries.” (Coles, P)
Arthur Stanley Eddington. (2009, March 12). From Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Stanley_Eddington
Coles, P. (2004, August 10). Eclipse that Changed the Universe- Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from First Science.Com Web site: http://www.firstscience.com/site/articles/coles.asp
Singh, S. (2009, March 12). 1919 Eclipse. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from SimonSingh.net Web site: http://www.simonsingh.net/1919_Eclipse.html
Silver, B. L. (1998). The ascent of science. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.