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Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae Paperback – December 1, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0226105215 ISBN-10: 0226105210 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 435 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226105210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226105215
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,277,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Prior to Hubble, the universe was known to consist solely of the stars in the Milky Way and believed to be relatively stable in size. But because of Hubble's discoveries, we now know that the universe consists of an unimaginably large number of galaxies (containing Carl Sagan's beloved "billions and billions . . ." of stars) and that this unimaginably large universe is continually expanding. In this first serious biography of Hubble, Christianson deals both with the enormous importance of these discoveries and, paradoxically, the apparent unimaginably small-spirited and petty nature of the man himself. Highly Recommended. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Son of an overbearing Missouri insurance agent, astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) revolutionized our conception of the universe. Working at Mount Wilson Observatory in California, he proved by the early 1930s that galaxies beyond the Milky Way are rapidly moving away from us. His observational evidence led Albert Einstein to endorse the model of an expanding universe. Catapulted to fame, Hubble, a dashing, formidable figure, hobnobbed with Anita Loos, William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin and Aldous Huxley. In an exciting biography of a scientific giant who was a very fallible human being, Christianson portrays Hubble as an egotistical, hot-tempered striver who feuded bitterly with colleagues, an antinuclear activist who advocated world government and a prevaricator who claimed to practice law and to have boxed prizefighters to win over his future wife. Biographer of Isaac Newton and Loren Eiseley, Christianson provides close-ups of well-known scientists and astronomers such as Einstein, Harlow Shapley, Percival Lowell and Vesto Slipher. Photos.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Graham Henderson on June 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you ever wondered why the Hubble Telescope is called the Hubble Telescope, I have a book that has the answer for you. In an age where all you have to do to have a highway or bridge or named after you is get elected to some minor office (the "Eric Winkler Parkway" ???) and where all you have to do to be referred to as a "genius" is guide an NFL team to a winning record ("Tampa sure has turned around since Smith arrived to handle the coaching chores haven't they Dandy? Yes Frank, they sure have, Coach Smith is a genius"), it is sobering to meet true genius -- warts and all.
When I was in high school, I studied nothing but sciences - with a particular emphasis on Physics and Astronomy - As a child I dreamed of being an astronomer - I built my own telescope. But then fate intervened and I ended up studying English literature and becoming a music lawyer. But later in life, in my early forties, I returned to my first love via a series of general interest science books. One of those books was "Edwin Hubble, Mariner of the Nebulae".
This compelling, lovely book was written by Gale Christianson, the author of an equally engaging portrait of Isaac Newton. Christianson is a Professor of History and writes with a down to earth, straightforward style. He writes for the general reader and does not presume that you are grounded in science or astronomy. So do not fear - dragons be not here.
Hubble is easily one of the most important figures to have graced the 20th century - or for that matter all of history. If you think that is an overstatement, then factor this into your thinking. This one man is responsible, virtually single-handedly, for several of the most important discoveries of all time.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Rummel on December 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
One of the most remarkable astronomers of all time, and the one who generally gets the credit for the biggest revolution since Copernicus: Hubble was the one who recognized that the universe is expanding, and who first articulated the principle that bears his name, that of the expansion constant, the "Hubble" constant.
This outstanding work does a good job of tracing his early years, a task made difficult by the fact that his wife destroyed many of his personal papers after his death. Hubble was enigmatic, aloof, and possibly disingenuous. He shed his Missouri roots and donned the polished exterior of a Brit. He was a shameless anglophile to the end of his life.
He had a knack for asking the right questions at the right time, and being a talented enough observer to get the data needed to address those questions. (...)
Christianson's work is an honest treatment of a difficult and complex subject. She doesn't gloss over the rough spots or try to sugar coat his scientific accomplishments. This is thoroughly researched and well written work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Sutter on May 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviews summarize well some of the key accomplishments of Edwin Hubble. But this biography leaves both the nature of those accomplishments and his personality a bit abstract.

Maybe this isn't the biographer's fault -- his subject was hardly a live wire. As Hubble's own wife remarked, in an inadvertently chilling quote near the book's end, other than smoking a pipe he had "no mannerisms" -- he never whistled, sang, drummed his fingers or gestured. He seems to have been something of a vain and self-centered guy, but his slights and injuries to other people seem to have been relatively mild and generally not malicious. (Pace another reviewer, we aren't told anything that could rank him as "one of the most unlikable men of all time;" he seems to have been no more, and maybe a bit less, of a jerk than many other vain, successful academics, and had many long-term friendships.) He exaggerated about his past experiences in law and the military, but these fibs seem not to have precipitated any crisis, much less catastrophe, in his life or caught up with him in any significant way. The main impression from the book is of a bland, pretentious Anglophile, Republican, with many of the racial prejudices of his day, who loved honors and attention and meeting famous people. His wife comes off as the same, though maybe slightly more prejudiced and pretentious (albeit once almost tempted to vote Democrat).

Maybe the most vivid thing we're told about Hubble is how late in life he became very attached to a cat, his first permanent pet. The biographer is quite generous in his attention to this cat, BTW. He's also generous in details of who were the Hubbles' friends in Hollywood, what plays those friends or the friends' friends starred in, etc.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Putman on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is difficult to write a biography of a man who made two of the most profound discoveries in the history of astronomy yet personally was often extremely unlikable. It is a balancing act that Gale Christianson does exceptionally well. Christianson does a thorough job describing Hubble's early life. This is important because it may go at least part of the way toward explaining some of his later behavior. His rigid upbringing and, perhaps most important, his father's absolute requirement that he go into law when he really wanted to study astronomy may well have much to do with his later rejection of his family. However, it does not explain his arrogance, his tendency not to give credit, and his somewhat bizarre love of English mannerisms, affectations, and "high" culture. Perhaps, as Christianson notes, the reason for the latter was that Hubble's Rhodes Scholar years at Oxford were his first true freedom from his family and left an indelible imprint on his self-formation. Hubble was competitive by nature. Christianson's description of his early athletic prowess at Wheaton High School and then the University of Chicago shows a man with an intense need to win and excel. By all appearances he seemed to care for his family early in life and enjoyed the camaraderie of his brothers. But, if anyone matches the description of success "going to one's head," it was Hubble. Christianson does everything possible to give us an evolutionary picture of the man but why he developed into the man he became is largely due to processes that I do not think any biographer can fathom. Hubble was brilliant but seemed constantly insecure and in need of recognition. His image seemed all-important.Read more ›
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