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The Book of the Cosmos Paperback – January 15, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738204986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738204987
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

So many books published these days seem to deliberately ignore the forest for the trees, or the leaves, or the chloroplasts, or the chemistry of biopigments. Readers interested in big questions usually have to make do with the obligatory summing-up at the end, in which the author tries to justify his or her narrow interest through heroic feats of recontextualization. The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking, on the other hand, is 600 pages of well-expressed deep thought on the biggest picture of them all. In roughly chronological order, editor Dennis Danielson presents 85 sets of excerpts from big thinkers from biblical times to the present, introducing each to the modern reader with insightful running commentary that is consistently helpful without being obtrusive.

The ancient Greeks hit the ground running, leaving us a rich conceptual legacy, which we are still exploring and exploiting even as our own work becomes more and more machine-mediated. Danielson gives us a wide base of ancient thought to give a sense of our heritage. He includes both obvious choices, such as Plato, and lesser-known writers, such as Parmenides. The often neglected Middle Ages brought us Ptolemy, Moses Maimonides, and others who set the stage for the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and the writings from these times betray an unexpected continuity of thought between the ancient and modern eras. Of course, the late-20th-century selections of such writers as Freeman Dyson and Steven Weinberg, which close the book, shouldn't imply an end to cosmological thinking. If anything, the last chapters of The Book of the Cosmos provoke a hunger for more. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Triumphs with the successful marriage of religious, literary, and scientific prose under a single cover." -- -Astronomy

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 62 people found the following review helpful By H. D. Saunders on September 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I really liked this book. It is fun reading and gets you thinking about very big questions.
As a science buff, I'm used to reading the latest books on physics, cosmology, etc. by modern-day leading scientists. But in this book, you get to see how the best thinkers of each age took what was known and put it together to explain the universe. And you get to see it in their own words, supplemented by Danielson's concise but insightful commentary.
This seems to me a book for both non-scientist and scientist. For the non-scientist, Danielson makes even the latest physics very understandable. For example, his description of Einsteinian gravity in the Wheeler chapter is as accessible an explanation of general relativity as I have seen in any popular book, and far better than those of my old introductory physics books. Any high schooler should understand it. Danielson seems to be able to draw out the essential ideas from both modern and ancient scientists and present them in a non-technical but accurate way. He also includes some very fun contributions, such as George Bernard Shaw's hilarious toast to Albert Einstein.
And I like the way each thinker's thoughts are presented in a short chapter-sort of bite-size stories. This means a person can pick it up and put it down without losing the thread. The chapters are presented almost exclusively in historical order, but I chose to hop around from era to era. In fact, the historical order lets you hop around without losing the sense of the historical context. I found it fun picking up the book and deciding which big name I was going to read next.
I think scientists should like the book too and find it valuable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm VINE VOICE on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The depth and breadth of selections makes this book a treasure. It features a wide diversity of pieces, ancient and modern, secular and religious, from many disciplines. What comes through in all the selection is the human drive to pursue ultimate questions and attempt to find ultimate explanations. It pulls together many writers I studied in fragmentary fashion in my philosophy, theology, and science classes. I highly recommend it as a masterful collection of writings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sunshine on June 3, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm an astronomer, and I found this collection of excerpts from historical and modern thought about the Cosmos to be really fantastic and refreshing. It is a book of literature, with meaningful selections from philosophy, history, Scripture, science, and poetry giving the reader a wonderful taste of the rich history of thought on the universe and our place in it. The author resisted the urge to fill the book with his own writings, though what he does write is a delight to read. I enjoy reading and re-reading it, and I also find that it makes a great gift.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I read this book some time ago and copied this paragraph review from a longer article that appeared in "The Writer" in 2001.

I was immediately entranced by The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking (Perseus Publishing) edited by Dennis Richard Danielson. This 500-page book looks at how western culture has viewed the nature of the universe down through the ages from sacred writings to modern physicists. Danielson, an English professor, brings a literary sensibility to his millennia-spanning collection. He includes writings by familiar scientists (Archimedes, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein and Hawking) as well as their ecclesiastical and secular supporters and critics. More surprising, he includes the poet Dante, playwright George Bernard Shaw, and genre writers G. K. Chesterton, Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Clarke. Eighty-five brief "chapters" are organized into six chronological sections from the ancients in "Cosmological Origins" to the moderns in "Beginning and Ends." Danielson reminds us that "cosmos" comes from the Greek word that means to make order out of chaos. He succeeds in imposing his order on these myriad materials as well as "evoking the very mixture of beauty and awe that draws us to contemplate this great universe in the first place."
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By vincent on October 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great reference
Live this book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By rob on July 6, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stephen Hawking has flare to unravel the great thinkers philosophical reasonings about the evolution of the cosmos.
Ijust loved it, kept me reading until the end.
thankyou.
rob clode Australian high country.
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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ryan on November 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Danielson was actually my professor for first year Honors English here at UBC. He was an absolutly incredible prof, and his love for the cosmos really comes through in this book.
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