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Authors: Hentschel, Klaus
Title: The conversion of St. John : a case study on the interplay of theory and experiment
Issue Date: 1993 Zeitschriftenartikel Science in context 6 (1993), S. 137-194. URL
Abstract: Gravitational redshift of spectral lines as one of the three early-known experimental implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity and gravitation was intensively searched for by researchers all over the world, but around 1920 most of the contemporary evidence in the sun's Fraunhofer-spectrum conflicted with the predictions of relativity theory. In 1923 the American astrophysicist Charles Edward St. John announced that his own solar spectroscopic data would force him to retreat from his former skepticism concerning the existence of gravitational redshift. This statement was at the time widely interpreted by scientists and journalists alike as the open confession of a rapid conversion of one of the few remaining serious scientific opponents of Einstein's theory. This paper demonstrates that this illusion of a sudden "Gestalt switch" in St. John's evaluation of data can be dissolved by a careful step-by-step account of St. John's research practice between 1917 and 1923. After a fine-grained diachronic report of the development of St. John's interpretation of his and others' data, the second part of the paper consists in a systematic analysis of the heuristics and arguments used by St. John pro and contra gravitational redshift.
Appears in Collections:15 Fakultätsübergreifend / Sonstige Einrichtung

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