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Advancing Variable Star Astronomy: The Centennial History of the American Association of Variable Star Observers [Hardcover]

by Thomas R. Williams, Michael Saladyga
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 30, 2011 0521519128 978-0521519120 1st
Founded in 1911, the AAVSO boasts over 1200 members and observers and is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to variable star observation. This timely book marks the AAVSO's centennial year, presenting an authoritative and accurate history of this important association. Writing in an engaging and accessible style, the authors move chronologically through five eras of the AAVSO, discussing the evolution of its structure and purpose. Throughout the text, the main focus is on the thousands of individuals whose contributions have made the AAVSO's progress possible. Describing a century of interaction between amateur and professional astronomers, the authors celebrate the collaborative relationships that have existed over the years. As the definitive history of the first hundred years of the AAVSO, this text has broad appeal and will be of interest to amateur and professional astronomers, as well as historians and sociologists of science in general.

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Editorial Reviews


"Advancing Variable Star Astronomy gives a rich, thoroughly documented account of a century of progress, through times of exhilaration and a period of traumatic stress. It is both fascinating and instructive." Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science, Harvard University

"Advancing Variable Star Astronomy is an insightful history of the development of variable star observing in America over the past century that is wonderfully imbued with the feelings and motivations of the various individuals involved in the conception and evolution of the AAVSO, dating from prior to its creation in 1911 to the present. The authors, with their lengthy personal involvement in the AAVSO, have drawn upon available documents and correspondence to infuse the contents with their impressions of the feelings and motivations of the various individuals involved, thereby breathing life into what might otherwise have become a mere recital of names, numbers and dates from the past. But Advancing Variable Star Astronomy is not simply a historical rendering of the AAVSO's first century; it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the development of the various branches of observational astronomy, particularly as they apply to the study of variable stars, and the interpersonal relationships that arose between individuals of often disparate temperament. The picture presented is that of an organization that is more dynamic and useful today then it was a century ago when it began as a gentleman's club of mostly amateur observers with small refracting telescopes interested in making observations, initially of long period variables, useful for learning more about the nature of stellar light variability." David G. Turner, Professor, St. Mary's University, Canada

"The pages of this marvelous book are like dipping into magic waters. Intertwined in the story of how stars behave is the story of the first century of the world's largest organization dedicated to observing variable stars. This is a tale of ideas, anguish, and discovery, from the smallest telescopes to the great telescopes in space. I recommend this book very highly." Dr David H. Levy, Amateur astronomer, comet discoverer, and author

"Much of what we know about variable stars is due to the unsung heroics of a host of amateur astronomers keeping lonely vigils over them in backyard observatories with small telescopes, with remarkably little recognition for their efforts, and with no satisfaction other than the sense of having added their scintilla to the sum of human knowledge. This superbly researched and elegantly written book, published in the year of the centennial of the founding of the AAVSO, is a landmark volume that will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever looked up and wondered at the night sky. It is a compelling tale, well told; I for one couldn't put it down." Dr William Sheehan, Amateur astronomer and author

"This is the definitive history book on the AAVSO which today is firmly established as the primary facilitator for photometric data on variable stars. The book also serves as an outline history of variable star discovery and research worldwide from its beginnings at the end of the sixteenth Century. With scientific researchers relying more and more upon amateur astronomers to provide photometry of variable stars the future of the AAVSO is assured. The captivating writing style of Williams and Saladyga in conjunction with the comprehensive research undertaken makes for a most compelling read." John Toone, British Astronomical Association, Variable Star Section

"This book was a fascinating read." Tony Markham, Astronomy Now

"is a well-researched, carefully-written and beautifully-illustrated volume that will long remain a classic in the history of variable star astronomy." - Wayne Orchiston, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage

"I highly recommend this book to those interested in the changing partnership between amateur and professional astronomy from the late nineteenth through the early twenty-first centuries." - Horace Smith, Journal for the History of Astronomy, Aug 2012

Book Description

Marking the AAVSO's centennial year, this timely book presents an authoritative and accurate history of this important association. Moving chronologically through five eras of variable star astronomy, the authors discuss the evolution of the AAVSO's structure and purpose, focusing on the thousands of individuals who have made its progress possible.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (June 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521519128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521519120
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 7.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,799,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of a citizen science organization July 11, 2011
This is an excellent book, though a little too specialized to be everyone's cup of tea. First let me say that this is not a guide to the science of variable stars, and those desiring to read up on that subject would do better to tackle a book such as John Percy's Understanding Variable Stars. Instead, this book tells the story of how an organization composed mostly of amateurs, the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), grew to become a major source of information on stars that pulsate, explode, or otherwise change in brightness. One of the revealing aspects of the book is the discussion of the disputes, disagreements, and outright fights that can go on mostly behind the scenes even in an organization made up of intelligent and dedicated men and women. It is also the story of how talented people overcame difficulties to create what is now a leading international scientific resource and a center of citizen science. The authors have long been associated with the AAVSO, and, though they deal with their sources fairly, it is possible that in drawing their conclusions their partiality peeks through at times. However, this is no serious problem and sufficient supporting evidence is given to enable readers to decide whether they agree with the authors' take on a topic. A good read for those interested in the history of astronomy and in how amateurs have contributed to the scientific endeavor. I would have liked a little more information on the particular astronomical advances that can be credited to AAVSO observations, but the book is already more than 400 pages long and constraints of time and space may have precluded such an expansion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A most interesting history. September 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I wanted this book from the time it was first published and I finally got it! Found this to be an excellent book on the history of the AAVSO. Anyone who is either a member of or an observer for AAVSO, this book is a must read. I just read that there might be a problem with the Kindle version of this book. If there is I didn't notice any problems with my Kindle copy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Citizen Science Well Presented December 14, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The authors have done a fine job presenting the 100 year history of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. As a member for the past 50 years, I appreciated the care with which they have gone through the successes and trials of the AAVSO. As a member of Council, I look forward to a bright future for our oganization based on the history presented here. If you have an interest in the subject, purchase this volume. You won't be able to put it down!
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