A Century of General Relativity

December 2 – December 5, 2015, Harnack House Berlin

The 'Renaissance' of General Relativity in History: Assessing Einstein’s Legacy in Post-World War II Physics

In the century following Einstein's ultimate formulation in 1915, the general theory of relativity has evolved from a revolutionary mathematical theory with limited contact with the empirical world to an observationally and experimentally based cornerstone of modern physics and cosmology. This momentous shift started around the mid-1950s. While in the previous decades general relativity was perceived as a highly formalistic subject involving only few theorists, by the mid-1960s Einstein’s theory has become an extremely vital research stream of theoretical physics, at the same time sparking entirely novel fields such as relativistic astrophysics  – a process that came to be known as “renaissance of general relativity.” The revitalization of general relativity, moreover, crossed the boundaries of science, and had a large social impact as well as a significant influence on philosophical debates.

In occasion of the 100th anniversary of Einstein's formulation of general relativity in Berlin, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science promotes a conference, which aims at exploring the overall process related to the renaissance of general relativity as well as the various ways through which this process affected different branches of theoretical and experimental physics in the second half of the twentieth century. The organizers believe that deeper insights into the historical dynamics can be attained in joining historians, philosophers, and physicists in dialogue. Topics will include the mathematical and conceptual evolution of the theory, social and geo-political considerations, co-evolution with quantum mechanics and elementary particle physics, incorporation of relativistic astrophysics, history of cosmology, history of numerical relativity, history of gravitational waves, history of quantum gravity, history of institutions devoted to gravitational research, philosophical issues.

The first day (Wednesday December 2) will be a joint event with the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (or Albert Einstein Institute) with talks about the past, present and future of General Relativity. Before the historical conference, the Albert Einstein Institute will host a physics conference (November 30-December 1) devoted to a review of recent development and future perspectives for General Relativity and its connection to particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics.

Website of the AEI Conference


Local Organizing Committee

Alexander Blum, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Roberto Lalli, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Jürgen Renn, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


Scientific Advisor:

Diana Kormos-Buchwald, Einstein Paper Project, Caltech



The preliminary program for the MPIWG conference can be viewed here.



Harnack Haus Conference Venue of the Max Planck Society


The conference is not open to the public. Only invited participants will be admitted.


For further information please send an e-mail to: