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Astronomers' biographies and key works

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Hi all,

As someone with a layman's interest in astromon, and wanting to read more about the history of it, I was wondering if anyone could tell me of any authoritative (or at least very good) biographies of the astronomers Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler?

Also, are there any editions of their key works (perhaps annotated) that would be good for the lay-reader? In particular:

- On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres
- Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
- Astronomia Nova
- Epitome of Copernican Astronomy

Or maybe that just talk about the Copernican Revolution in an engaging way.

Thanks very much!


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Josh, can't recommend any off hand but what I would suggest is that you go on-line and check for university courses in History and Philosophy of Science.  Look at their units and references and you may strike it lucky.(as Mo would have said:) )  If you can find a 'local' uni - sorry I'm not familiar with London, it may be worth your while to ring the HPS Department and find out who it would be best to speak with and follow their recommendations.  Long winded I know, but all part of research when one has an interest.  By the way, there are many academics who would welcome the interest of a lay person and the chance to have a brief chat to give advice.:)

Of course, the other option is to run an on-line search looking for recommendations and reviews, that plus check abebooks.com with the appropriate key terms and see what comes up. Many of the books are quite cheap, but not so the postage.:(

Hope this helps


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I love the way Galileo in his book writes you need a telescope capable of magnifying at least 400x... Quick, to the nearest department/toy store!!!

"I therefore waited for the next night with the most intense longing, but I was disappointed of my hope, for the sky was covered with clouds in every direction." Proof someone  other than Galileo had new optical equipment...?! :grin:

Edited by gooseholla
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Thanks guys.

Michael - I've already emailed one academic from an astronomy course but he's not replied (based on my experience of tutors getting back to me when I was at university, I'm hardly surprised). Maybe I'll just email a few more at different universities however.

I've had a look on Amazon for reviews but it's not thrown up much.

Trazor, thanks, that's a great link!

It's strange how these are core scientific texts but they’re not easily available. You can get any number of Greek/Latin ‘classics’, or indeed any major philosophical work, but it seems scientific treatises aren’t the done thing. Have to say I’m pretty surprised.

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you may need to send to many before one replies, that's why I thought ringing and searching the (London?) campus in person.

I remember many years ago when attending a university for several units (HPS & Parapsych) I found the HOD of Physics very approachable especially given that I was a student but not from within his discipline.  He liked the idea of a VLBI between NSW and Victoria.  

Another possibility is check course content in astronomy at different institutions and the check recommended texts which cover your interests.  Then ring the course convenor.


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