Lick Observatory’s Test of the General Theory of Relativity is September 23–November 27, 2022.

One hundred years ago, a San Francisco Bay Area observatory played a critical role in testing one of Einstein’s greatest and most beautiful theories—general relativity. This temporary exhibition tells the story of this scientific quest, through original scientific instruments, artifacts, logbooks, films, correspondence, and photographs, including one of the glass plate negatives that verified the theory, taken in Wallal, Australia during the 1922 solar eclipse.

According to Einstein, starlight passing near the Sun would be bent by its strong gravity, causing those stars to appear in slightly different positions. During a total solar eclipse, it’s briefly possible to observe stars near the Sun as if it were nighttime, so Einstein urged astronomers to attempt this observation. The exhibition details Lick Observatory’s ultimate success, and their previous attempts which were foiled by inconclusive data and cloudy skies.

Materials for this exhibition were curated from Lick Observatory’s Historical Collections Project, the University of California Santa Cruz’s Special Collections, and the Australian National Film and Sound Archive.