Chasing Venus

Chasing Venus

The Race to Measure the Heavens

Book - 2012
Average Rating:
2
Rate this:
"On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the Earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system--but only if the transit could be viewed at the same time from many locations. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies. Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs: eight years later, the scientists were given a second chance to get it right. Chasing Venus brings to life this extraordinary endeavor: the personalities of eighteenth-century astronomy, the collaborations, discoveries, personal rivalries, volatile international politics, and the race to be first to measure the distances between the planets"--Provided by publisher.
"The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor--the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system. On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system--but only if the transit could be viewed at the same time from many locations. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies. Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs: eight years later, the scientists were given a second chance to get it right. Chasing Venus brings to life this extraordinary endeavor: the personalities of eighteenth-century astronomy, the collaborations, discoveries, personal rivalries, volatile international politics, and the race to be first to measure the distances between the planets"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.
ISBN: 9780307958617
0307958612
9780307700179
0307700178
Characteristics: xxvi, 304 p. :,ill., maps ;,25 cm.

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment

z
zipread
Dec 20, 2014

Chasing Venus: the Race to Measure the Heavens --- by --- Andrea Wulf. No, this isn’t a novel about that limbless lady in the Louvre. (I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself: the pun simply overwhelmed me). At the start of the Enlightenment, in the second half of the eighteenth century, certain philosophers and astronomers realized the importance of determining the dimensions of our solar system. In order to do this, the exact transit time of Venus across the face of the sun would have to be observed. A transit of the sun by Venus is an extremely rare event with the next one not expected till the year 2112. The novel; oops, sorry, but it does read like a novel --- that’s meant to be a compliment and a tribute to the author’s ability to take a potentially very esoteric and boring topic and turn it into a volume that makes for interesting, indeed engrossing, piece of work that reads almost like historical fiction. Remember, the world of this time was far different than the world of today. Astronomers had to be dispatched to remote Siberia without the help of roads, railways and mechanized transport. Winters were brutal. The snowdrifts were deep. The accommodations en route were non- existent. What hardships were borne in the name of Science. In other parts of the globe typhoid and typhoons, hurricanes and humidity plagued the astronomers. Wulf’s wrting makes for reading difficult to resist. Engrossing. Illustrative. Informative. Extensive bibliography. Tables. Instructive footnotes. Bravo Andrea: well done. Highly enjoyable.

l
lalunaunita
Sep 16, 2013

Andrea Wulf's comprehensive account of the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769 is detailed and engaging. Her writing style is very easy to read, which is a great asset when writing about a topic that could be yawn-producing for the general public. However, Ms. Wulf communicates what she saw in the journals and first-hand accounts of the transit astronomers: drama, adventure, danger, and the triumph of Enlightenment ideals over the political struggles of the day.

I really like the way the information has been organized in this book. Astronomers all over the world were preparing for lengthy voyages and complicated calculations and they each had a different pace for different parts of the prep. Ms. Wulf guides us through their stories primarily in phases (meaning, first she details the correspondence of the groups and their initial plans and requests for funding, then goes on to tell us about the starts of the journeys, etc.), which means that even though two different astronomers may have set sail 6 months apart, we learn about it as though they are keeping pace with one another and we can compare their journeys. Secondary organization: by country of origin. As the governments and crowns of the various nations were instrumental in funding (and some, like Catherine the Great, were almost meddlesome in their enthusiasm), it makes sense to group the astronomers as countrymen - those of the same nationality made plans and traveled together in many situations, after all.

I enjoyed the audiobook version. I recommend picking up a print copy from the library to glance over, though, because there are a lot of images and supplemental material that can't go into an audio version.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at Library

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top