Review of `A brief history of the universe' by J. P. McEvoy published by Robinson of London in 2010.
CITATION: McEvoy, J. P. (2010). A brief history of the universe. London: Robinson.
Reviewer: Dr W. P. Palmer
This book is another in the Brief History series. I found it very well written with well developed connections between the events covered. The book is 300 pages long with suggestions for further reading and an index. The copy reviewed was a paperback at a reduced price so the comparative lack of illustration was to be expected. J. P. McEvoy is an established researcher and writer in this area having previously written about Stephen Hawking and also on quantum theory.
McEvoy starts his history of astronomy with the old Babylonian period from about 2000 BC, moving on to Greek astronomy and Ptolemy's important role in astronomical theory. Part 2 is entitled `Newton's Universe' and starts with Nicholaus Coppernicus. I have always been very fond of Koestler's `The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe (Compass), but McEvoy points out one of Koestler's errors where Koestler claimed that De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestiumwas not widely read in its first edition. McEvoy dedicated his book to Kepler and Einstein, so it is not surprising that he gives a very full and positive account of Kepler's life and discoveries. Galileo and Newton get high praise for their contributions to astronomy, but the author details the flaws in their characters. He is particularly interesting on the terrible way in which Galileo ignored Kepler's letters.
Part 3 is entitled `Einstein's universe' and this brings the reader up to date with 20th and 21st century astronomy. In some ways, this is the least well-known story in astronomy, perhaps because the story-line diversifies so much and there is so much information to record. McEvoy gives one set of connected events well, but omits others. For example I would have expected Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar, Stephen Hawking and black holes to receive more attention, but the author is only writing a `Brief History'. I did feel the last section may have less well edited as `Sir Hermann Bondi' was referred to as `Sir Hermann Biondi' on several occasions and even in the index. A few small typos also crept in and the author has a great fondness for using the dash as a substitute for the correct punctuation mark.
Overall it is an interesting and worthwhile book providing the ordinary reader with `A brief history of the universe'