- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (February 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307744604
- ISBN-13: 978-0307744609
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens
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“[A] thrilling adventure story. . . . Wulf’s marvelous eye for detail and talent for simplifying complex science make the book . . . well worth reading.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Chasing Venus captures the spirit of adventure and the wonder at mankind’s newfound ability to understand the world around it. . . . A pleasure to read from beginning to end.” —Sky at Night Magazine
“Here is a book both astrophysicists and poets can understand.” —The Boston Globe
“Andrea Wulf’s story of the chase is an enthralling, nail-biting thriller and will undoubtedly prove one of the nonfiction books of the year. . . . Don’t miss this wonderful book.” —Daily Mail
“A narrative . . . rich in personalities and adventures. . . . . [Wulf] wonderfully sketch[es] the race for scientific, and patriotic, glory.” —Dallas Morning News
“Excellent. . . . Chasing Venus is beautifully paced, alternating between expeditions, with lush descriptions of the often arduous journeys involved.” —Owen Gingerich, Nature
“Wulf’s entertaining book is a fine tribute to that admirable human trait of scientific curiosity. . . . An inspiring story.” —The Dispatch (Columbus, MS)
“[An] enticing tale. . . . [Wulf’s] feeling for personality and her attention to both the scientific records and to the astronomers’ journals brings their exploits to life as both scientific exploration and adventurous derring-do.” —The Washington Times
“Another fine example of such scientific storytelling. . . . Narrated with elegant expertise.” —The Times (London)
“A human story, and . . . a rallying call to humanity’s quest to explore the universe simply for the sake of it.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
“Magisterial. . . Andrea Wulf traces the dramatic transformation of Venus from object of mythological awe to instrument of scientific revelation.” —The Guardian (London)
"Thrilling. . . . Wulf's account is an absorbing, . . . exciting yarn." —The Independent (London)
“[An] excellent book. . . . Chasing Venus chronicles a rare planetary event that happened at a rare juncture in human history, when the age of empire, the age of science, and the age of curiosity brought the world together for just a few moments—to achieve the measure of the universe.” —Brain Pickings
“Outstanding. . . . It’s the book of the year so far—do not miss it!” —Astronomy Now
“Writing in a clean and precise style reminiscent of Dava Sobel’s Navigation and Holly Tucker’s Blood Work, Wulf nonetheless develops a narrative pace more typical of a globe-trotting thriller than a history book. . . . The history of science at its most fascinating—and most adventurous.” —Chapter 16
“[A] lively narrative. . . . Enlightening Enlightenment fare.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[An] enthusiastic account. . . [and] well-handled history.” —Booklist
“Replete with meticulous detail, delightful illustrations and a cast of very familiar names from world history, Chasing Venus is an eminently readable account of humanity’s effort to chart the heavens. At once an exhilarating adventure, a tale of personal obsession, a tragedy and a detailed history of astronomical endeavour, Wulf’s latest work is a fascinating read.” —Press Association (UK)
About the Author
Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She lives in London, where she trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art. She is the author of The Brother Gardeners, long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2008 and winner of the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award, and of Founding Gardeners; she is also the coauthor (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for The Sunday Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times, and she reviews for several newspapers, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement.
Top customer reviews
These multi-national efforts to study and measure the passage of Venus across the sun the author characterizes as "the first global scientific project." This is because for the first time there were multiple national scientific teams working together to gather and collate data from these two events. This is especially true for the 1769 transit, where something like 250 scientists at some 130 locations around the world made (or tried to make) observations.
While the British and French took the lead, there were other important actors as well. Catherine the Great, in her determination to propel Russia into modernity and western European culture, supported Russian participation (which meant trekking to Siberia). Even the future U.S. got into the act, with the involvement of David Rittenhouse and Benjamin Franklin. Sweden also dispatched observers to the far north. Particularly as regards the 1769 transit, it is amazing, considering the limits of 18th century travel resources, how widespread the observers ended up scattering themselves. Often, observer teams had to leave 6 months in advance of the transit date to make their destinations. Such dedication is to be commended.
But collecting the data with 18th century instruments was only half the battle: the next challenge was to collate all this international data into meaningful numbers. For example, should all observations be accorded the same weight, or should some be discounted? Since there were many different data points, how could this all be collated into meaningful ranges. Remember, this was all before the modern computer made the scene. Yet, for all these challenges, the joint computations yielded remarkably accurate findings close to the data generated today.
What was all the fuss about? It would hoped that accurate measurement of the transit would enable these 18th century scientists to accurately estimate the size of the universe and resolve issues for example like the distance from the earth to the sun.
The author has organized and presented her extensive research findings in a pleasant and very cogent format. She discusses some expeditions in detail, others less so. The book is full of maps and helpful diagrams and documents relating to 18th century scientific technology. The author has included a helpful "dramatis personae" introducing the leading actors; complete lists of observers for both transits; a solid bibliography; and 43 pages of valuable notes. However, the main advantage of Wulf's books is that she can explain scientific concepts in a way that we non-scientific types can understand and benefit from. All around, just a very fine job.
Most recent customer reviews
Second, the story itself was really interesting, about how scientists from all across the world worked together to observe a...Read more