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Vox45

Book suggestion - Your favorite read

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I've just finished a lovely book by David Levy - Cosmic Discoveries, the wonders of astronomy. It consists of 20 or so chapters each devoted to an individual from the history of astronomy, some well-known and others less so. This is a very easy read and most chapters can easily be read in half an hour. Clearly some of the material is recycled and will not be new to many readers, but Levy always puts his slant or interpretation on things which makes it a lot more personal / personable. I got my copy second hand online and there are plenty of more copies out there for a couple of quid.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/157392931X/sr=8-1/qid=1481369589/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=1481369589&sr=8-1

 

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This has all put me in mind of Halley's part in getting Newton's Principia published, of his largesse. And for me nothing says largesse so well as what we encounter in astronomy. Not a book per se, but a running footnote maybe?

http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/67/4/315

Here's their Astronomy section

http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/collection/history-astronomy

For a proper book, I sat with the question for a day but realized it'd have to be Hamlet's Mill--I'll never be finished sounding those depths, even after I've managed to understand the other half of its contents. But it does for me what astronomy does, and what astronomy seems to have done for our ancestors; it fits between two covers unbounded vistas and helps to (re-)establish communion.

Cheers

Edited by laowhoo

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On 06/09/2016 at 02:54, L8-Nite said:

My favourite read has got to be ....... "Hutchinson's - Splendour of the Heavens ". 

A truly magnificent work with many contributing authors, just shy of a thousand pages, and with about as many photos or illustrations. Our two volume copy dates from 1923.  It's one of those books when once opened, is difficult to put down.  :smile:

 

 

 

 These and many other old expired copyright books can be found on Archive.org in various formats.

https://archive.org/details/hutchinsonssplen02philuoft

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https://archive.org/details/hutchinsonssplen02philuoft

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Some great suggestions there, I may well acquire one or two of those, as I have been thinking I need to do more reading.

I recently read and really enjoyed Frank's book of the telescope written in the 1950's by Charles Frank himself. Its a fascinating read and the information and advice within is just as valid today as then (apart from the chapter on ex-WW2 optics!) - proven by the fact that the telescope he recommends for the amatuer astronomer is a 6" F8 Newtonian, not much different to today!

This book has made me realise that I love reading about the observing experiences of amateur astronomers of the past and the equipment they used.  I'll try and compile a shortlist of potential intersting reads from this thread.

 

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Rob,

Then you definitely need to read "Starlight Nights" by Peltier.

I'd also recommend "The Comet Sweeper" by Claire Brock, all about Caroline Herschel and her discoveries.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Merlin66 said:

Rob,

Then you definitely need to read "Starlight Nights" by Peltier.

I'd also recommend "The Comet Sweeper" by Claire Brock, all about Caroline Herschel and her discoveries.

 

 

Superb, thankyou! I shall try and get hold of these and let you know how I get on. :smiley:

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Currently rereading The Planet Observers Handbook by Fred Price while I wait for some new books to arrive. Like Burnham's his introduction to the field in the first few chapters is wonderful.

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Some of my favorites;

The Book Nobody Read by Owen Gingrich. Fascinating insight into Copernicus and his famous publication and the history of the original editions.

Starlight Nights by Leslie C. Peltier. Autobiography of a famous amateur Variable Star observer.

The Great Melbourne Telescope by Richard Gillespie. At one time the second largest telescope in the world.

Clyde Tombaugh by David H. Levy. Biography of the discoverer of Pluto.

The Nobleman and his Housedog by Kitty Ferguson. Wonderful account of the life of Tycho Brahe, previously mentioned by Putaendo Patrick above.

Alvan Clark and Sons, Artists in Optics. The history of the great American refractor makers along with a listing of their telescopes and lenses.

Epic Moon by William P. Sheehan and Thomas A. Dobbins. In depth history of the telescopic exploration and mapping of the moon.

The History of the Telescope by Henry C. King. This classic work still makes great reading.

 

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Any book by the late Carl Sagan is good. His Cosmos book & TV series are what inspired me to take astronomy as a hobby.

 

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The Discovery of our Galaxy by Charles Whitney - candid about he good the bad and the ugly in astronomy :-)

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Here's a book you may want to avoid:

Mars the Inside Story by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest.

It's a coffee table book published in 2003. I found it for £2.50 in a charity shop and I'm glad I didn't pay full price!

The 'tabloid' writing is all sensationalism and over-dramatising people's roles and the actual science is thinly spread. One particularly awful example is alongside  a discussion of alternative life models - there's a pretty shoddy 'visualisation' of three bog standard 'grey aliens' with the caption "Not our flesh and blood... while looking vaguely like humans, these hypothetical aliens are made not from organic matter but from silicon, the semi-metallic element used in computer chips."

The first few chapters have just been dressing up the 'bugs in a meteorite' and Viking labelled release experiment in a huge cloud of conspiracy decorated with various versions of War of the Worlds and even Flash Gordon.

I'm hoping the book will eventually get on to some sensible discussion of the science of Mars, but the trashy style might make me give up before I get there.

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Chasing Venus by Andrea Wulf tells the story of the two Venus transits of 1761 and 1768 and how they attempted to try and measure the size of the solar system by observing the transits from different locations. It is an astounding story of human endeavour with triumph and tradgedy and journeys to far away unknown lands. A well researched and gripping read. If anyone knows a film producer looking for something to do, give them this book to read!

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+1 for Arthur Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers", a fascinating read about the errors and crooked ways of science and scientists, that led to our model (Newtonian) of the universe.

Joseph Ashbrook's "The Astronomical Scrapbook" (Cambridge University Press, 1984). Contrasting to Koestler, 83 chapters filling 450 pages on very various subjects (e.g.: "The era of long telescopes"; "Observing very thin lunar crescents"; "Algol and scientific conservation"; "Mizar, Alcor, and a planet that wasn't" (= Sidus Ludoviciana)). Nice to read, especially when you want to make use of a short break, or need a bedtime read not too long.

In German language only: Rolf Riekher: "Fernrohre und ihre Meister"; a very comprehensive work about the telescope's evolution up to 1950.

Stephan

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I am a big fan of Dava Sobel. I am reading her latest book "the glass univers", a fascinating read where you get to meet Williamina Fleming, Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Cecilia Payne and Antonia Maury, better known as the Harvard Computers.

"Dava Sobel soars higher than ever before continuing her streak of luminous science writing with this fascinating, witty, and most elegant history of the women who worked in critical positions at the Harvard Observatory...The Glass Universe is a feast for those eager to absorb forgotten stories of resolute American women who expanded human knowledge.

 

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