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This report is taken from PN Review 228, Volume 42 Number 4, March - April 2016.

Einstein and (Coincidentally) the Modern Poets Robert Griffiths
Just over a hundred years ago, in November 1915, Albert Einstein published the second part of his relativity theory, the so-called General Theory, ten years after what then become known as the Special Theory. The first decades of the twentieth century were remarkable in physics for this theory and for ideas that were to ultimately take shape as Quantum Mechanics, to which Einstein also made early contributions. Indeed, when he received the Nobel Prize in 1921, after a decade of unrewarded annual nominations, it was for this work, not relativity theory, which was still deemed to lack sufficient empirical verification, despite Arthur Eddington’s widely publicised confirmation in 1919 of the theory’s prediction that light would bend in the gravitational field of the sun. Of course, Einstein’s body of ideas is today regarded as the most significant contribution to physics since Newton and, for some of his admirers, perhaps the most significant intellectual event of the twentieth century; Nigel Calder is typical: ‘if you have not felt the ground move under your feet while contemplating his ideas, you have missed the frisson of the century’ (Nigel Calder, Einstein’s Universe, Penguin (2005), p.6).

The first two decades of the twentieth century were also remarkable, but nevertheless in a way that seems curiously coincidental, for the emergence of what came to be seen as ‘modernist’ poetry in English. In exactly the same year that Einstein published his work on General Relativity, T. S.Eliot published The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, whose opening image of the evening ...

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