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Shoemaker by Levy: The Man Who Made an Impact Hardcover – October 15, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997) is best known to the general public for his discovery, along with his wife, Carolyn, and author Levy, of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which slammed into the planet Jupiter in 1994. Shoemaker had played an important role in the Ranger and Apollo programs, where he helped to determine the geology of the moon's surface and ascertained that landing craft and astronauts wouldn't sink knee-deep into the thick regolith (surface material) as other scientists had speculated. He also made important discoveries in the new field of paleomagnetism, determining the age of rocks through analysis of their magnetic orientation. But Shoemaker, who was killed in a freak car accident in the Australian Outback, will be best remembered for proving that huge craters like Meteor Crater in Arizona and those on the moon were not caused by volcanic activity, but by the colossal and often deadly impact of asteroids and comets. Shoemaker-Levy 9 provided the final bit of evidence: mysterious strings of craters on our moon and elsewhere are now recognized as having been created by similar comets or asteroids that broke up before impact. Fellow comet hunter Levy, the biographer of astronomers Bart Bok and Clyde Tombaugh, pens an affectionate portrait of his gifted if mercurial friend. Not all of the amusing anecdotes contribute to the total picture, and Levy's prose is occasionally a little stiff, but readers will appreciate, in addition to its welcome memoir of Shoemaker, the book's overview of the development of planetary geology during the last half-century. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

Their names are memorably linked to Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which they discovered in 1993 and which captured worldwide attention when 21 fragments of it crashed into Jupiter in July of 1994. Eugene M. Shoemaker, who died in an automobile accident in 1997, was a geologist who spent much of his career studying impact craters on the moon and Earth. (He "practically invented the field of astrogeology," according to Paul W. Chodas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.) Levy is a writer on astronomy and the discoverer of 21 comets. He skillfully describes Shoemaker's work and sharply delineates his strong personality. Shoemaker got his lifelong wish to see an impact when that comet struck Jupiter. And his wish to go to the moon, thwarted by his health, was fulfilled when the spacecraft Lunar Prospector, carrying one ounce of his ashes, crashed onto the lunar surface five years to the week after the last traces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 disappeared.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (October 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691002258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691002255
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,273,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric Werme on January 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Soon after pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 began impacting Jupiter, I checked Jupiter with my 3.5" telescope and was delighted to see impact spots. Just a day before astronomers were fearful that there would be no visible trace of the impact and of the reaction of the media to the "non-event".
Somehow I didn't take time to reflect on the "rightness" that the comet was discovered by the scientist most responsible for our current understanding of past and future impacts on the Earth. I guess it just seemed obvious that Shoemaker was the one to find the comet. (Actually, his wife Carolyn was the first to see it on film Gene and David Levy exposed.)
The day after his death I heard of the idea to include some of his ashes on the Lunar Prospector satellite that was soon to launch, orbit, and eventually crash on the moon. While I instantly recognized what a wonderful idea that was, my memory was fuzzy on his long contribution to lunar exploration.
Levy's biography is a wonderful summary of the Shoemakers' life and contributions to astrogeology. Shoemaker will be remembered as one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. Shoemaker's enthusiasm for geology was a key to his success and Levy concentrates on that, leaving the technical aspects to the bibliography. The result is a book anyone can read and all can learn from.
Five stars, several asteroids, and dozens of comets!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Holy Olio on December 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent (and probably the only) bio of Eugene Shoemaker, who nearly singlehandedly pioneered impact geology, and by doing so helped make modern, secular catastrophism palatable to scientists. On page 55 Levy quotes Stephen Gould (from "The Panda's Thumb") regarding the origin of gradualism as "a common cultural bias"; discusses Cuvier's near miss regarding the source of catastrophes attested throughout the fossil record (pp 51-52); and most nobly and notably, recounted with pretty good accuracy the central thesis of Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision without resorting to the childish distortions and namecalling found in most books which mention Velikovsky at all. This factual, non-inflammatory mention of Velikovsky and what may be the most controversial non-political work of the 20th century reveals Levy as a man of reason, courage, and character.

This biography is highly recommended.

Also recommended:

-:- "Dark Matter" by Thomas Van Flandern
-:- "The Deep Hot Biosphere" by Thomas Gold
-:- "Voices of the Rocks" by Robert Schoch et al
-:- "Night Comes to the Cretaceous" by James Lawrence Powell
-:- "Rain of Iron and Ice" by John S. Lewis
-:- "T Rex and the Crater of Doom" by Walter Alvarez
-:- "Noah's Flood" by Walter C. Pitman and William B. F. Ryan
-:- "Catastrophe: A Quest for the Origins of the Modern World" by David Keys
-:- "Worlds In Collision" by Immanuel Velikovsky
-:- "Earth in Upheaval" by Immanuel Velikovsky
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Kilkenny on March 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A truly delightful book about the premiere scientist. The book takes you from the early days when Gene was a kid collecting rocks in a jar, to his prominent role with the Apollo project to the seach for asteroids. Levy writes in such a way that you almost feel that you were friends with the man. Looking over his shoulder as he takes college kids on field trips to Meteor Crater and in the control room for the Voyager missions. I never knew Gene was involved in so many aspects of astronomy. Anyone who relishes science biographies should not miss this one.
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