The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavorthe eighteenth century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in than a century Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar systembut only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world, only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs eight years later, the scientists would have another opportunity to succeed.Chasing Venus brings to life the personalities of the eighteenth century astronomers who embarked upon this complex and essential scientific venture, painting a vivid portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the volatile international politics that hindered them at every turn In the end, what they accomplished would change our conception of the universe and would forever alter the nature of scientific research....
|Title||:||Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens|
|Publisher||:||Knopf 1 Mai 2012|
|Number of Pages||:||495 Pages|
|File Size||:||583 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens Reviews
Highly recommended reading. Astronomers of the 18th century working together for the advancement of science & knowledge, struggling with long & tiresome journeys to Siberia and South Pacific, withstanding war & weather, and this all for short moments of viewing the Vernus Transits of 1761 and 1769. This book is also a short history of Enlightenment in times, when Europe as an idea was still in the making. No talk of Brexits here.Andrea Wulf knows how to tell a tale, maybe sometimes she fails to add some color to the landscape of her story. But for lovers of astronomy and the history of science this book offers more than a glimpse at the stars of these sciences. A must read even for Europeans and the ones that sometimes consider this political idea obsolete. Europe united is more than money can buy.
As per usual, Amazon - whatever country - never fails to please. Orders are satisfied: enough said. Packaging is always perfect - no book from Amazon to my address has ever been damaged in spite of the rough way the postal system handles letters and parcels. delivery always on time or slightly prior to the promised delivery date. In short - very reliable.
I bought Chasing Venus after reading the same author's The Invention of Nature, which was just wonderful, a five-star read (at least). This book is definitely a good read, but not in the same league. She wrote this one first, so she's clearly progressed - fair enough.Andrea Wulf is great at relating the adventures of the many scientist of various nationalities travelling to obscure parts of the earth to observe the transit of Venus. The achievement of 18th century scientists is truly impressive, beginning with the amazing foresight of Edmund Halley to kick off the project in the knowledge that he would not be around for the actual event. It is fascinating to read how scientists of so many nations, some even at war with each other, cooperated so well with each other in this ambitious project, particularly in an age when the only form of intercontinental communications was a piece of paper which had to be physically carried by a sailing ship across the ocean.What the author is not so good at is the science behind the project. She hints at it but never fully explains how, if you time the transit of Venus across the sun from different points on the earth, you can calculate the distance from the earth to the sun. She mentions in an aside how latitude was determined in the 18th century, but oversimplifies it. (Yes, you measure the elevation of the sun at midday and subtract from ninety degrees - but you also need to factor in what day of the year it is). It seems incongruous to devote 100 pages at the back of the book to notes, bibliography etc. but then to gloss over the science at the very core of the subject.
I purchased this book after reading Andrea Wulf's biography of Alexander von Humboldt on which she did a wonderful job. This is obviously an earlier work, where she is still looking for her own style and write with her later confidence. The information is all there and the stories surrounding the various observers are interesting, so I also read this book from cover to cover. After I finished I was very happy that I took the effort to watch the transit of June 2012 as I will have no other change to observe the phenomenon (it will next occur in December 2117).
In her previous books, "The Brother Gardeners" and "Founding Gardeners," Andrea Wulf demonstrated her unique ability to convert topics I was not particularly interested in into fascinating studies. In this volume, about the Transit of Venus scientific expeditions in 1761 and 1769, she has accomplished this once again.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.
With the excitement of the solar eclipse and the transit of Venus which happened earlier in 2012, I wanted to read about what it was like before light, and telephones and cameras to rally scientists around the world for a once in a lifetime event. Captain Cook ventured to the South Seas in support of this event. It's an interesting read without getting bogged down in the science of the event. More about how do you cope with wars and weather and building telescopes and sailing (no planes!) for months to some remote island and hoping that the sky is clear enough to capture the event. Really pretty amazing stuff.
This meticulously researched and well structured book focuses on the human element of the 18th century Venus transit expeditions. It reads like a novel and you are left with a sense of wonder that people could actually go to such extremes for a scientific objective. I rated it the second best transit book after Sheehan and Westfall, "The Transits of Venus", because Sheehan and Westfall have much more technical material about transit conditions and uses of the observations. The two books are complementary, with Sheehan/Westfall providing the astronomy and an overview of the main expeditions and Wulf supplying many interesting and previously unpublished details on the participants and what they went through. It's a wonderful book and a credit to the author.
Prospective buyers should know how slight this book is. The hardcover edition is 336 pages, but in the Kindle edition, about half of it is notes. Most of the text is narrative of the principal astronomical expeditions of 1761 and 1769, concentrating on the difficulty of traveling by ship, carriage, and sledge. The math and science involved are almost totally absent. Nor is there much discussion of the instruments and techniques used by the observers. You could get more science from the Wikipedia article about the transit of Venus and related articles about the astronomers and their instruments. So, although the book is well written, I can't really recommend it.