- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Viking (December 6, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670016950
- ISBN-13: 978-0670016952
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Named one of the best books of the month by Flavorwire, Bustle, Harper’s Bazaar, Real Simple, Refinery29, Men’s Journal, BBC, and The National Book Review
“Ms. Sobel writes with an eye for a telling detail and an ear for an elegant turn of phrase. . . . [The Glass Universe is] a joy to read.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Sobel lucidly captures the intricate, interdependent constellation of people it took to unlock mysteries of the stars . . . The Glass Universe positively glows.” —NPR
“An elegant historical tale…[from] the master storyteller of astronomy.” –The Boston Globe
"Sobel mixes discussions of the most abstruse topics with telling glimpses of her subjects’ lives, in the process showing how scientific and social progress often go hand in hand." –The New Yorker
"A peerless intellectual biography. The Glass Universe shines and twinkles as brightly as the stars themselves. –The Economist
“At once an exhaustive and detailed account of a breakthrough moment in the world of science, as well as a compelling portrait of pioneering women who contributed as much to the progress of female empowerment as they did to the global understanding of both astronomy and photography.” —Harper’s Bazaar
"[Sobel] traces a remarkable line in American female achievement…[and] captures the stalwart spirit of Pickering’s female finds." —USA Today
“Sobel has distinguished herself with lucid books about scientists and their discoveries . . . [She] vividly captures how her brilliant and ambitious protagonists charted the skies, and found personal fulfillment in triumphant discovery.” —The National Book Review
“A fascinating and inspiring tale of . . . female pioneers who have been shamefully overlooked.” —Real Simple
"Sobel shines a light on seven 19th- and 20th-century women astronomers who began as 'human computers,' interpreting data at Harvard Observatory, then went on to dazzle...An inspiring look at celestial pioneers." —People
"An astronomically large topic generously explored." —O, The Oprah Magazine
"It takes a talented writer to interweave professional achievement with personal insight. By the time I finished The Glass Universe, Dava Sobel's wonderful, meticulous account, it had moved me to tears...Unforgettable." —Sue Nelson, Nature
"A compelling read and a welcome reminder that American women have long desired to reach for the stars.” —Bookpage
"Sensitive, exacting, and lit with the wonder of discovery." —Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction
"This is intellectual history at its finest. Dava Sobel is extraordinarily accomplished at uncovering the hidden stories of science." —Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Chord and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March
“[Sobel] soars higher than ever before...[continuing] her streak of luminous science writing with this fascinating, witty, and most elegant history...The Glass Universe is a feast for those eager to absorb forgotten stories of resolute American women who expanded human knowledge." —Booklist, Starred Review
"Sobel knows how to tell an engaging story...With grace, clarity, and a flair for characterization, [she] places these early women astronomers in the wider historical context of their field for the very first time." —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Praise for The Planets
"[The Planets] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again." —The New York Times Book Review
"[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled. . . . A splendid and enticing book." —San Francisco Chronicle
"An incantatory serenade to the Solar System." —Entertainment Weekly
Praise for Galileo's Daughter
"Sobel is a master storyteller. . . . She brings a great scientist to life." —The New York Times Book Review
Praise for Longitude
"This is a gem of a book." —The New York Times
"A simple tale, brilliantly told." —The Washington Post
Praise for A More Perfect Heaven
"Ms. Sobel is an elegant stylist, a riveting and efficient storyteller, a writer who can bring the dustiest of subjects to full-blooded life." —The New York Times
"Lively, inventive . . . a masterly specimen of close-range cultural history."—The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
DAVA SOBEL is the author of five books, including the New York Times bestsellers Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, The Planets, and The Glass Universe. A former New York Times science reporter and longtime contributor to The New Yorker, Audubon, Discover, and Harvard Magazine, she is the recipient of the National Science Board’s Individual Public Service Award and the Boston Museum of Science’s Bradford Washburn Award, among others.
Top customer reviews
Because so many women participated in the development of a new understanding of the cosmos, there are a tremendous number of characters in The Glass Universe. Repeatedly while reading, I kept wishing that there was a character listing at the front of the book to help me keep track of them all. When I finished the book, I was happy to ascertain that Sovel had compiled a lengthy Catalogue of Harvard Astronomers, Assistants, and Associates at the end of the book. While it was helpful to peruse this after finishing The Glass Universe, I feel it would have been more useful at the front of the book instead of after I was finished reading. At the end of the book, Sobel also includes a timeline with the highlights of the Harvard College Observatory which places many of the developments and discoveries into a coherent, satisfying format.
Sobel’s story is uplifting, and I loved reading about the recognition these women received at a time when women working was highly uncommon. Not only did their fellow workers at Harvard Observatory acknowledge the success and importance of these individuals, but astronomers worldwide respected and recognized the contributions made by them. I highly recommend The Glass Universe. Thanks to Viking Books and NetGalley for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
6 June 2017
Sobel, Dava. (2016). The Glass Universe: How the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars. New York, NY: Viking.
Women's expeditions into advanced mathematics and science are not the same as men's. That was notoriously true in 19th and 20th century America, as gate-keepers protecting the realm of men (while ostensibly and disingenuously protecting the fairer sex) unapologetically denied gender equality. Recall that before 1920, women in most of the US did not have the right to vote.
Glass Universe is an important women's history overlaid on a history of astronomy and astrophysics. The title refers to the half million glass photographic plates on which stellar observations were recorded, and the subtitle reveals the subject of Dava Sobel's exploration, developed through a series of biographies. A chronologic approach was taken, focusing on several key players with a large supporting cast, while the observatory is the stage.
Award-winning science writer Sobel introduces a cadre of astronomers previously known to few of us, although their discoveries and taxonomies are fundamental today. I am a fan because I have enjoyed Sobel's Longitude and Galileo's Daughter many times each. Her research is rigorous, and she treats her subject astronomers with admiration and love, describing women pioneers in photography; spectroscopy; stellar origins, evolution, and chemistry; and astrophysics. Positions of primacy are given to Williamina Fleming (1857-1911), who devised a classification scheme for stars and discovered more than 300 variable stars; and Antonia Maury (1866-1952), whose enhanced spectral classification scheme based on improvements in photography distinguished between giant and dwarf stars, and who identified spectroscopic binaries.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921) established a system to measure distances across space based on the brightness of stars, and her co-worker of two decades, Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) classified and cataloged the light spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars. Cannon also mentored Cecilia Payne (Gaposchkin)(1900-1979), who revealed the physical and chemical nature of stars, the articulation of physics and astronomy, or astrophysics. Hers was the first PhD in Astronomy conferred by Harvard/Radcliffe (1925). Heiresses Anna Palmer Draper (1839-1914) and Catherine Wolfe Bruce (1816-1900) also advanced astronomy as generous benefactors.
Reading this book required three and four bookmarks. The text is 323 pages, including bibliography and index. There is so much information -- unwrapping the life stories of many astronomers -- that I frequently flipped back and forth between sections to help me distinguish between individuals. An extensive timeline is concealed under the title Highlights of the Observatory (pp. 273-279), and that was important to bookmark, as is the alphabetic catalog of astronomers and others (pp. 285-292), and the glossary located between them. Six color photos are centered in the book, which includes 20 pictures of the visionaries. But the unconventional lack of scholarly references and citations is not explained, despite the wide use of quotations, and it is not clear why the academic title Dr. was so seldom and inconsistently used.
Through this book, Sobel opened a new universe for me, sending me searching for more information on these fascinating women of science. These astronomers who changed our understanding of the universe demonstrated resilience in the face of denied academic degrees, titles, awards, positions, and reasonable pay based explicitly on their gender, even as they published seminal works in the science.
Like artists, scientists pursue original thoughts and intellectual challenges. The interpretation of findings and written expression are steps in a solitary creative endeavor. They must have great faith in those to whom they reveal and entrust their discoveries. I imagine these pioneers created a supportive environment for each other, a privileged sisterhood, enabling them to retain their unique positions in the observatory and the academy, fully aware that most women were denied access to such work and study. And they were probably not surprised when others took credit for their work. Yet the women remained committed to expanding, generating, and then sharing knowledge. They were as brilliant as the stars they were measuring in as many dimensions.