Simon Newcomb, America's Unofficial Astronomer Royal and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Simon Newcomb: America's ... has been added to your Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Simon Newcomb: America's Unofficial Astronomer Royal Hardcover – January 20, 2006

See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$26.95 $19.75


Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Mantanzas Publishing (January 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591138035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591138037
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,404,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...the Carters' book fills an important gap in astronomical history. I recommend it to libraries and individuals interested in the history of American astronomy. But maybe the best recommendation is that I had a lot of fun reading the book-and I could not put it down until finished." -- Physics Today - Bradley E. Schaefer, Louisiana State University

"I thoroughly enjoyed this book . . . The Carters bring much to the table. I was fascinated by their account of how Newcomb and other luminaries, such as Alexander Graham Bell, became involved in comforting and caring for President James Garfield after he was shot in 1881 . . . Equally appealing is the Carters' description of Newcomb's work with Albert Michelson to measure the velocity of light to unprecedented accuracy for the time . . . " and "their account of the discovery by Seth Chandler that terrestrial latitude changes due to a 14 month wobble of the Earth's rotation axis relative to the crust, and Newcomb's interpretation that the effect is due to our planet's elasticity . . . here's a pleasant opportunity to get acquainted with a man whose influence on American astronomy persists to this day." -- Sky and Telescope - Lief J. Robinson, editor emeritus

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Railbird on December 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book almost without flaws, a solid workmanlike effort, but somehow I was slightly disappointed. I knew who Simon Newcomb was and was aware of his contributions to the development of timescales and positional astronomy.

I read the Carters' previous book, "Latitude" and was completely smitten. This book lacks the compelling narrative style of that volume. Maybe I had set my hopes too high.

The book is a biography, very much in the traditional sense. However, rather than a chronological catalog of events, the chapters are a series of articles about major milestones in the life of Simon Newcomb, arranged in chronological order. There is, of course, some overlap but I found this approach both clever and very satisfying.

The authors are manifestly technically literate but the technical content is very, very low. Tastes vary, but I personally would have liked more.

The bad bits:

I would have enjoyed the book infinitely (ok, a lot) more if there were illustrations and photographs! Not one. Not even a photograph of the subject. [...] Just a B&W reproduction of a death notice, listing Newcomb's honors and associations, hardly different than plain text.

The layout is unfortunate. In several places long citations are inserted, enclosed by only a single pair of quotation marks. At least begin each paragraph of a citation with quotes, ok? I would have preferred "blockquote" style so I could easily tell where a citation began and ended without hunting for a teeny pair of goose tracks.

The authors also indulge in the habit of attributing thoughts, motives and actions to people that they could not possibly have known. (E.g.
Read more ›
3 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Casey Q. Ogden on November 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Simon Newcomb, by Bill Carter and Merri Sue Carter is the biography of a scientist who was born in 1835 and died in 1909. Simon Newcomb is a man of historical significance and the subject of his life and his achievements is a story that needed to be told. The Carters do a masterful job in doing so. As distinguished members in the same core scientific community as Newcomb, they are able to measure Newcomb's scientific achievements, present it well and give credit where credit is due. In Newcomb's later years, he spent "much time and energy writing popularized scientific articles, explaining complex concepts and results in terms that the public could understand and appreciate". Close to a century after his passing, the Carters give him their time and energy in honoring his life and scientific contributions.

"America's Unofficial Astronomer Royal", from the title page we see this statement and it is something worthy of exploration. I believe that in Newcomb's mind he was and through his actions you can see that it was something that he dearly wanted. Although openly taking on "the mantel of `Unofficial Astronomer Royal'", there was one thing that eluded him -the fact that he was never able to hold the title "Superintendent, U.S. Naval Observatory". The Carters depict his character so vividly that you can imagine his extreme angst never having captured this title, especially, since the opportunity was almost his for the taking until the assassination of his good friend, President Garfield.

In attempting to know why Newcomb behaved the way he did and accomplished the things that he accomplished, it is important to know the intricate details of his life. The Carters give us ample insight as to how and why he achieved so much.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John R. Herman on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Simon Newcomb is not well known to the general population but he should be. He was one of the most influential astronomers of the Nineteenth Century both in the US and Europe. This absorbing account of his life takes us from his early youth under an ineffective father through an indentured medical apprenticeship to his emergence as a world famous scientist. The authors, Bill and Merri Sue Carter, cover both his triumphs and his travails, and show the whole man, as Ben Franklin might have said, "warts and all."

In his youth Simon excelled in mathematics but was largely self-taught until he escaped his servitude in Canada and immigrated to the US, where he graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in two years, even while working at the Nautical Almanac Office. While still a resident graduate student at Harvard, Simon traveled to the wilds of Manitoba west of Lake Winnipeg to observe a total solar eclipse. In the decades that followed, he made many fundamental contributions to astronomy, including overseeing the construction of the workd's largest refractor telescope, which was used by a colleague at the U.S. Naval Observatory to discover the moons of Mars. He measured the speed of light wih Michelson, and used the result to determine the astronomical unit far more accurately than those values derived from the observations of the transits of Venus in 1874 and 1882. Later he refined the orbital elements of our Moon, and made his mark on the international scene at the Paris Conference in May 1896 where his set of solar system constants was accepted by the participants (Germany, France, England and the United states). Newcomb had a long, and sometimes antagonistic relationship with Seth Carlo Chandler, Jr.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again