Einstein 1920: The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity

Reference: Einstein’s 1920 Book

This paper presents Appendix 3 from the book RELATIVITY: THE SPECIAL AND GENERAL THEORY by A. EINSTEIN. The contents are from the original publication of this book by Henry Holt and Company, New York (1920).

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.


The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity

Please see Appendix 3 at the link above.



A scientific theory is the view evolved from a continuous assimilation of observations of the physical universe into the mental matrix. The initial stages of a scientific theory are constructed out of a process of arrangement from a large number of single observations. Guided by empirical data, the investigator intuitively develops a system of thought, which, in general, is built up logically from a small number of fundamental assumptions, the so-called axioms.

But there may be several theories corresponding to the same complex data. These theories may differ from one another to a considerable extent, while agreeing on deductions that are capable of being tested. General theory of relativity differs fundamentally from Newtonian mechanics, but there have been only a few testable deductions that are different.

Newton’s theory gives an angle of 360° for the period (from perihelion to perihelion). General relativity, however, provides a slightly different result. The result from general relativity is confirmed by actual observations for the motion of the perihelion of mercury.

Light rays bend near the sun due to its gravity, such that a star behind the sun can be seen at a somewhat greater distance from the centre of the sun than corresponds to its real position. This phenomenon of the change in the angle of light was confirmed quite accurately by experimental evidence.

The completely objective observer is the universe. In other words, the universe provides the absolute reference system K0 that is absolutely at rest. We measure the motion of all the parts of the universe against the backdrop of the universe.

Einstein’s rotating disc is the whirlpool model. As one moves away from the center of the disc the linear velocity increases and inertia decreases. In other words, both time and space expand. The inertia provides the gravitational potential.


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