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Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered the Cosmos Hardcover – November 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0226551432 ISBN-10: 0226551431

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Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered the Cosmos + Archives of the Universe: 100 Discoveries That Transformed Our Understanding of the Cosmos
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 342 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226551431
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226551432
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Paul Murdin, a University of Cambridge astronomer, rounds up 65 major cosmic findings from before the invention of the telescope to the bafflements that are dark matter and dark energy in Secrets of the Universe . . . a well-organized, accessible survey of astronomy's past and present illustrated with almost 600 photographs and drawings.’”

(Austin American Statesman)

“In 65 short chapters, astronomer Paul Murdin introduces us to many of the great thinkers and scientists whose insights and discoveries over the centuries helped to reshape our vision of space.”—Globe and Mail


(Globe and Mail)

"[An] utterly absorbing account of the universe and how our knowledge of it has been acquired. . . . . Murdin's book beautifully illustrates the story of the astronomical quest. It should be under every Christmas tree this year, for anyone of any age and any stage of scientific literacy or illiteracy--and if the latter, it will soon and magnificently change it to the wonder in which all enquiry begins."
(Barnes and Noble Review)

“If your interest in astronomy has been flagging, this is the book to reignite your sense of wonder. . .  This is a marvelous overview of astronomy, from its colorful history to today's hottest topics. . . . This is a storyteller’s history of astronomy, constructed like a collection of short stories that invites readers to delve in at any point. Murdin approaches each subject with passion, insight, and explanations that make the most complex topics—relativity, gravitation, cosmology—not just accessible, but completely absorbing.”

(Ad Astra)

"This well-written and illustrated book should be considered a reference shelf staple in one's professional  library or classroom."
(Steve Canipe NSTA)

About the Author

Paul Murdin is a senior fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge and editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Formerly, he was head of astronomy at the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and director of science at the British National Space Centre. He is the author of Full Meridian of Glory: Perilous Adventures in the Competition to Measure the Earth and coauthor of The Firefly Encyclopedia of Astronomy.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We came to our current scientific understanding of the universe over centuries, triumphing over superstition and demonstrating that for investigating nature, nothing beats careful observations and measurements when they are harnessed to our inherently curious natures. Quietly we built up a storehouse of facts and explanations for them, and sometimes the effort was punctuated by the excitement of discovery. Paul Murdin knows about this personally. In the introduction to his _Secrets of the Universe: How We Discovered The Cosmos_ (The University of Chicago Press), he explains that as a working astronomer in the seventies, he found a star that was responsible for a beam of x-rays that had previously been detected, and that the star was a result of a supernova explosion 3,000 years ago. He was delighted to realize that no one else in the world (and maybe no other being in the galaxy) knew what he did about the star. He admits this was a tiny discovery although his book is about the big ones, but the people who made the big discoveries had the same sense of exultation. Edward Charles Pickering was director of Harvard College Observatory, and he had as a scientific assistant his former maid Williamina Fleming who had become a full-fledged astronomer. In 1910 they were visited by Henry Norris Russell, an astronomer from Princeton, and the three of them started wondering about the temperature of a particular star, and it led to a revelation. Russell wrote, "At that moment, Pickering, Mrs. Fleming and I were the only people in the world who knew about white dwarfs." In 1639, Jeremiah Horrocks and his friend William Crabtree looked for the black dot of Venus to inch its way across the disk of the sun, which Horrocks had calculated would happen by using Kepler's tables.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JYK on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good overview of astronomy, encompassing the early years and the latest discoveries as well as theories, explained in layman's terms. Accompanied by high-definition photos, it's a great starter for those interested in astronomy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Murdins writing style is clear and each chapter builds on the next which makes understanding our modern view of our Universe quite clear.
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