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You have your scientific history wrong. I'm fairly certain that you confused Mercury with the bending of light by the Sun, and you are confusing general public recognition with the attention paid by scientists. Here is a timeline.

- 1859: Mercury's precession is recognized as not fitting Newtonian predictions.

- 1887: The Michelson-Morley experiment shows the speed of light not varying as expected with motion.

- 1905: Einstein publishes several groundbreaking papers, including his special theory of relativity, and an explanation of the photo-voltaic effect (which he eventually received the Nobel for)

- 1908: Einstein becomes a professor, is widely recognized in scientific circles.

- 1911: Einstein comes up with his general theory, explains the precession of Mercury, and predicts gravitational lensing.

- 1916: Einstein appointed president of the German Physical Society.

- 1919: An Englishman, Eddington, confirms the gravitational lensing prediction during an eclipse, the press seizes on this sign of international cooperation in the aftermath of WW I, Einstein soon becomes a household name.

- 1921: Einstein receives the Nobel award in physics.

So when were Einstein's theories empirically supported. Was it 1919 or 1905 or 1908?

Depends on which theory.

In 1905 the theories published then all fit experiment.

1919 was special because it was the confirmation of a prediction that contradicted widely accepted theory. It was made more special because it came at an extremely fortuitous time for the news cycle.

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