World History 1905

About the history of the world in 1905, Einstein publishes his theory of relativity, Norway dissolves its union with Sweden, the Industrial Workers of the World is formed.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1905

* Albert Einstein, 26, a patent examiner in Berne, Switzerland, and part-time dabbler in theoretical physics, published the special theory of relativity. Although complete understanding of this remarkable theory, which upended classical physics, requires a knowledge of the most exotic branches of mathematics, the gist of it is this: (1) Time is not the absolute we have come to know and respect. The faster a body moves, the slower its clock runs. A minute on earth may pass in 59 seconds or 61 seconds on planets traveling at speeds different from that of earth. (2) The speed of light remains constant in all frames of reference. Whether you are moving toward a light source or away from it, the light will still reach you at a rate of 186,000 mi. per second. Thus neither light, nor the earth, nor the stars can be used as a base from which to measure anything absolutely. Only in relative terms is a ruler 12 in. long or a basketball round. To a spaceman sitting behind a superpowerful telescope, the earth stick may shrink to 11 in. and the ball may appear oval. (3) All motion is relative. Therefore, there can be no such thing as absolute rest. Outer space, long held to be at rest, is so only relative to the motion of bodies passing through it. (4) Moving bodies acquire mass as they increase in speed. The faster a body travels, the heavier it becomes. As a body approaches the speed of light, it adds mass very rapidly. If it were to reach the speed of light, its mass would become infinite. It can be seen that no body can ever travel faster than the speed of light. The additional weight acquired by an accelerating body makes penetration of the light barrier impossible. (5) Mass and energy are mutually convertible. A book, a mountain, toenails--all contain dormant energy. As Einstein put it, energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light, or E=MC2. The massive energy of the atomic bomb comes from just such a conversion of a fraction of the bomb's mass into energy. Einstein's theory gained acceptance slowly.

* Norway dissolved its union with Sweden and set up its own kingdom under Haakon VII. The break was peaceful.

* Eleutherios Venizelos, 41, key leader in Crete's revolt against Turkey (1896-1897), led the fight in the Cretan legislature to make his country a part of Greece--a union which took place eight years later.

Jan. Striking Russian workers marched on the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present their petition of grievances to Czar Nicholas II. They were met, not by the czar, who had left the city, but by a hail of bullets from barricaded Russian troops. Outrage over the killing of 1,000 strikers and the wounding of another 1,000 helped spark an unsuccessful revolution later that year.

Jan. 25 Frederick Wells, a mine superintendent, routinely inspected the Premier Mine in South Africa before closing down for the day and stumbled across the Cullinan diamond, at 3,106 carats the largest diamond ever discovered. Wells picked up a $10,000 reward for his trouble. The Transvaal government purchased the Cullinan (named after Thomas Cullinan, founder of the mine) in 1907 as a 66th birthday present for King Edward VII of England. The man chosen for the ticklish job of cutting the stone was a Dutch craftsman named Joseph Asscher. In 1908 he cleaved the Cullinan perfectly into 9 major stones, 96 lesser gems, and 10 carats of polished fragments. The largest diamond carved from the Cullinan, a 530-carat pear-shaped rock known as the Great Star of Africa, today twinkles from the royal scepter of the British crown jewels in the Tower of London.

June 27 Radical and Socialist labor leaders met in Chicago to form the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) as an alternative to the pro-capitalist AFL.

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