- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (May 8, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0306820382
- ISBN-13: 978-0306820380
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus First Edition Edition
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Publishers Weekly, 3/19/12
“In this exciting tale—part detective story, part history of science—Anderson (“Shakespeare” by Another Name) vividly recreates the torturous explorations and enthralling discovery of three peripatetic and insatiably curious explorers.”
“A scientific adventure tale in which astronomers risk their lives, traveling the high seas in winter, trekking over ice-bound Siberia and facing deadly diseases…A lively, fitting tribute to ‘mankind’s first international ‘big science’ project.’”
“Anderson's prose [is] gleaming with a stout and convincing imagining of the past…An adventure tale that brings to life knowledge that is a touch esoteric, yet was at the center of vital, practical pursuits of the 18th century.”
“An armchair travel adventure.”
“[An] excellent account…Arresting…Anderson serves up a rich broth of details.”
“I can think of no finer reading companion to warm you up for [the transit of Venus] than this week’s review, The Day the World Discovered the Sun…This book reads like a fine historical adventure novel…The book doesn’t back away from the ‘good stuff’ that astronomical history buffs yearn for…A table is included for the mathematically curious, and tales of astronomical intrigue abound.”
“A fine combination of popular science and real-life adventure that will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.”
“[An] intense account of efforts to measure the rare celestial event.”
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Top customer reviews
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This book doesn't feel like "science" though, although those factors are well explained. On the contrary, we have mad kings, exotic natives, scary epidemics, erudite Jesuits, stubborn viceroys, squabbling astronomers, wide-eyed naturalists, leonine monarchs, curious common-folk, dedicated scientists, international political intrigue, wild overland journeys, and the gamut of seagoing excitement, for starters.
The various locales journeyed to give us a breathtaking "you are there" window into 18th-century Vienna, St. Petersburg, Mexico, Baja California, Siberia, Paris, arctic-circle Norway, South Pacific islands, London, Barbados, Cape Town, Tierra del Fuego, Copenhagen, Jakarta, Cadiz, Rio de Janeiro, and places in between. The point of the Venus transit was to get readings from many locations, as mutually distant as possible, in order to triangulate a reliable distance to the Sun. And getting to these locations is half the adventure, but certainly not all of it. Greater challenges meet each adventurer upon arrival at their destination.
The intriguing characters we follow include, among others: the renowned Captain Cook; the "French Benjamin Franklin"; two latterly famous fellows named Mason and Dixon; the aforementioned diligent erudite Hungarian Jesuit; and all of their partners, assistants, and travelling companions.
In the cleverly organized narrative that weaves several strands together at once, there are moments of cliff-hanging suspense in each of these journeys halfway across the world. And there are also many aha! moments for the reader: remarkable historical revelations, recognition of familiar historical names, and moments where something clicks -- either historical, or technical, or even a distant fact learned decades ago -- and makes brilliant sense. It's this living quality to the narrative that makes it memorable and inviting.
The book is a rich, full, thick tapestry of colorful and very real and tangible true-life adventure. I thought it was only going to be about adventurous discovery, but it's so much more -- it's the very human story of characters you immediately care about, come to know deeply, and think about long afterwards.
As a Norwegian, I particularly loved the story of the Hungarian priests and astronomers going to Vardø. Their trip was extremely rough and long. Today it would have taken two days, tops. How the world has changed. Not only was the journey hard, but they had to bring everything they needed, and build the infrastructure they depended on.
Kudos to Mark Anderson for a great accomplishment.
My only gripe with this book is that Anderson erroneously gives NASA credit for the Venus Express mission (which reached Venus orbit in 2006). Seriously, it is one of the flagship missions of European Space Agency, ESA.
But really, it's a wonderful book. If you're interested in science history, astronomy or space science, it is probably for you.
Most recent customer reviews
in about 8 minutes and 20 seconds and knowing the speed of light, we
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