100 years on: the picture that changed our view of the universe

Arthur Eddington’s photograph of the 1919 solar eclipse proved Einstein right and ushered in a century where gravity was king

A hundred years ago this month, the British astronomer Arthur Eddington arrived at the remote west African island of Príncipe. He was there to witness and record one of the most spectacular events to occur in our heavens: a total solar eclipse that would pass over the little equatorial island on 29 May 1919.

Observing such events is a straightforward business today, but a century ago the world was still recovering from the first world war. Scientific resources were meagre, photographic technology was relatively primitive, and the hot steamy weather would have made it difficult to focus instruments. For good measure, there was always a threat that clouds would blot out the eclipse.


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