The Institute of Field Physics was established at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1955, primarily to study gravitational physics. It was, in no small way, behind the shift from what Jean Eisenstaedt has labeled “the low water mark of general relativity” (1925-1955) to what Clifford Will has labelled “the renaissance of general relativity”. The Institute of Field Physics was the brainchild of Agnew Bahnson (closely guided by John Wheeler), a wealthy industrialist with a love physics (and physicists). It followed closely behind another such venture, the Gravity Research Foundation, established and underwritten by Roger Babson, again a wealthy businessman with a taste for physics (primarily all things Newtonian). Though seemingly unlikely, together these two businessmen transformed the research landscape of gravitational physics. In this talk I describe the evolution of gravity research (primarily quantum gravity) as driven by these and other forces, from 1947-1957. In so doing I aim to fill in what I take to be incompletenesses in other discussions of this important transition in the status of general relativity.
The year 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of Einstein's field equations. To celebrate this event, the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (or Albert Einstein Institute) hosted a conference during the week of November 30, 2015, exactly one hundred years after the publication of Einstein's paper. The conference took place in the recently renovated Harnack House, where Albert Einstein regularly lectured between 1915 and 1931.The first two days of the conference (Monday November 30 and Tuesday December 1) devoted to a review of recent developments in and future perspectives for General Relativity and its connections to particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics. The third day (Wednesday December 2) was a joint event with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, with talks on the past, present and future of General Relativity.
On December 3-5 the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science concluded the celebratory events with a workshop on the history of Einstein's theory titled "The "Renaissance" of General Relativity: Assessing Einsteins's Legacy in Post-World War II Physics."