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Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0226594415 ISBN-10: 0226594416 Edition: Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Revised edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226594416
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226594415
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Soon after completing this work, John David North died following a heroic battle with cancer, and the history of astronomy community lost one of its few great contemporary generalists. I sometimes wonder what Otto Neugebauer would have said about Cosmos. Probably he would have harrumphed and declared, ‘It isn't long enough.’ But at 900 brilliant pages, we could hardly ask for more.”

(Times Literary Supplement 2009-12-18)

About the Author

John North (1934-2008) was professor emeritus at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He was the author of many books, including The Measure of the Universe: A History of Modern Cosmology, The Ambassadors’ Secret: Holbein and the World of the Renaissance, and, most recently, God’s Clockmaker: Richard Wallingford and the Invention of Time.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By James E. Morrison on September 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Cosmos" is a wonderful book by one of the truly great historians of astronomy. It is easily the most comprehensive popular astronomy history ever published and is a model of clarity and scholarship. In my mind, there are two factors that set this book apart:

1. The scope of the work is comprehensive and covers astronomy from ancient times to the most modern techniques and challenges. You should scan the Table of Contents in the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to get a feel for the range of topics presented.

2. It gracefully explains how, over time, contributions from cultures and individuals combined and evolved into the astronomical systems in use in each era and evolved into today's view of the universe.

The first half of the book deals with ancient and medieval astronomy, including not only Western cultures, but also how astronomy developed and was used in China, India and the Americas. The presentation is seamless and gives the reader a good feel for how astronomical ideas and measurements were influenced by many cultures.

The second half focuses on the evolution of astronomy as a science and how contributions from many individuals were refined and combined to create a coherent view of the universe.

It ends with a look at the research challenges facing the modern astronomer and astrophysisist.

"Cosmos" is an expanded version of North's, "Norton's History of Astronomy and Cosmology", with a large amount of additional material and is much better illustrated. It is written for an educated general audience and can serve as a "read" just for fun, a textbook or a permanent reference.

It took me rather a long time to get through the entire book as it inspired me to dig into other sources for more detailed material on some points. What more can you ask of a history book than to open doors?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Veli-Pekka Ranta on December 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a comprehensive book on the history of astronomy and cosmology with ca. 250 black-and-white illustrations and ca. 20 color plates. I especially liked the chapters on Stonehenge and on several famous astronomers and scientists like Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, Newton and Herschel. It was also interesting to read that all the famous mathematicians were involved in astronomical calculations. After reading this book it was easy for me to accept North’s statement that astronomy has been a prototype for the empirical sciences.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin Calhoun on December 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
writing a great book based on one's own research is one thing, writing a book based on the work of someone else
and not even changing the title is just horrifying. It is difficult to speak ill of the work of someone who lost his battle with cancer
but in this case I just have to call a spade a spade. The entire history AND the way it was written is an obvious re-write of the Sagan book to a very painful point. Sagan's book was published in early 1985, This book was published in 2008 and adds Nothing new to Sagan's work. it just re-hashes it. It takes a lot of nerve.
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