As the year 1915 drew to a close, the colossal conflict that became known as World War I was in its 16th month. Huge numbers of soldiers belonging to the armies of the Allied and Central Powers had become casualties in the trenches of France and Belgium. The first use of poison gas by the Germans occurred at the Second Battle of Ypres during April and May. Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in May, joining the side of the Allied Powers. The Allied landings at Gallipoli designed to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war had failed. The Allies began to withdraw their forces in December. At sea, Allied port blockades and increasing German submarine warfare were taking a rising toll.
Plagued by supply problems and corruption, the Russian Army was suffering setbacks. In August, the Russians were driven from Warsaw. In September, in a move to prop up morale, Czar Nicholas II assumed command of all Russian forces. In October, Austro-Hungarian forces captured Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Although the Central Powers won victories, they were also stymied. There were too many Russian troops and too much territory for the Germans and Austro-Hungarians to subdue. Although battered, the steely Russians would remain in the war. As the winter of 1915-16 approached on the Eastern Front, the fighting settled into the same type of horrific trench warfare that had become the lot of soldiers on the Western Front.
Although no one knew it in late 1915, the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires would end up on the ash heap of history when the war ended in November 1918. Although the armistice ending the war would be met with joy, revolution had brought Communism to Russia before the war’s end. The victorious Allies would redraw the map of many of countries in somewhat disjointed fashion, contributing to problems that linger to this day. Fascism would take hold in Italy and Germany. In the Far East, Japan would begin to eye expansion by military means. In a few years, the world would be lurching down the path leading to World War II.
After being semi-dormant for some time, the Ku Klux Klan reemerged as an ugly feature in American life in November 1915. The occasion was marked by a large cross burning at a Klan rally on mountain near Atlanta, Georgia. During the following years, the Klan would see a growth spurt in its membership and influence.
In the academic world of November 1915, one of the world’s greatest intellectual achievements took place. Albert Einstein, a professor at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, delivered four lectures outlining his general theory of relativity. It was the result of the 10 years of hard work he had put into deciphering gravity. The ten equations of his general theory of relativity laid out a new concept of gravity, it was the warping of the fabric of space and time in the presence of mass. Einstein’s astonishing and radically new view of the interplay of space, time, matter, energy, and gravity was published in December.
Einstein’s theory departed from the accepted notion of absolute space and time. It was a major update to Newton’s Law, considered by many scientists of the period to be the final word on gravity. Over time, Einstein’s groundbreaking description of gravity has become a powerful research tool. It is the foundation for current thinking regarding the origin of the universe, the structure of black holes and the unification of nature’s forces. The theory has been applied to the search for distant planets, determining the mass of distant galaxies and projecting the trajectories of ballistic missiles.
The theory has altered much scientific thinking over the years. It also had ominous repercussions at a time when the world was skidding towards another war. In 1939, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt outlining the crucial military implications of his theory. Those alarming military facets would lead to the enormous American effort to develop the Atomic bomb during World War II.