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The Immortal Fire Within: The Life and Work of Edward Emerson Barnard Hardcover – 30 Jun 1995

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One of the things that has always been most appealing about Edward Emerson Barnard is the fact that he was able to overcome so much childhood hardship. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
An absolutely wonderful book! 23 Aug 2000
By John Rummel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a meticulously researched and well written book about one of the most celebrated astronomers of the turn of the last century, who is unfortunately almost forgotten today. As was the case with many well known scientists of the 19th century, Barnard started life inauspiciously and came to science as a result of his considerable amateur achievements. Poor and virtually uneducated as a child in Nashville, he distinguished himself as a photographer's assistant, and developed a lifelong interest in the night sky. After becoming fairly well known as an amateur astronomer, he attracted the attention of the officials of what would eventually become Vanderbilt University. The regents were persuaded to build an observatory, and installed the young Barnard as its director, even though he had no college education (not even high school!). Barnard was aware of his limitations, particularly in mathematics, and began to audit courses at Vanderbilt in math, astronomy, and physics. When he finally left several years later to take a position at the new Lick Observatory in California, he had the equivalent of a bachelor's degree, though a degree was never officially conferred.
Barnard's life in astronomy is marked by greatness. Comets were his early passion and he discovered many, but he was equally please to make detailed observations of any comet, regardless if it was "his" or not. He was also a passionate observer of the planets. His discovery of Jupiter's fifth moon was the event for which posterity usually remembers him, but he also made ground breaking observations of Mars and Saturn. Though he never publicly said so, he was one of the earliest skeptics of his good friend Percival Lowell's "canal" observations of Mars. Barnard's sketches in the early 1890's revealed details of what would later be called Valles Marineris and the volcano calderas of Olympus Mons, Arsia Mons, and Ascraeus Mons, but showed no evidence of canals. Later, Barnard pioneered the use of wide field photography and made some of the earliest and best photographic studies of the Milky Way, and eventually authored the catalog of dark nebulae that bears his name. He also did considerable photographic work with comets and put forth some controversial (and mostly correct) theories about the nature of the mysterious coma and tails. His pioneering work in stereoscopic photography was done with comets as well, where a special viewer allowed the viewing of two sequential shots of a comet, making the comet stand out in relief against the background stars. Barnard's penchant for closely studying his photos was rewarded by his discovery of the great looping nebula in the constellation Orion that bears his name, as well as the faint star of fast proper motion in Ophiuchus (Barnard's star).
Sheehan's writing is marvelously clear and interesting, and his documentation is thorough. He lays bare Barnard's decade long quarrels with Lick director Edward S. Holden, and follows Barnard to Yerkes in Wisconsin where he spent over 20 years and eventually ended his career. Sheehan is a psychiatrist by training and makes an occasional conjecture regarding the psychology of various characters. I found this distracting at first but he never went overboard with it. By the end of the book, I found myself wishing he would be even more adventurous with his psychohistoriagraphy in the case of George Hale's well known struggles with mental illness, but Sheehan didn't take the bait beyond a few general comments.
Overall, I found this book virtually impossible to put down, and was almost depressed that it had to end. Dozens of wonderful pictures of Barnard and his companions, astrophotos, and sketches litter its pages. A detailed index is supplied making cross-referencing the many names and places easy.
E.E. Barnard was a pivotal figure in the history of astronomy, straddling the breach between observational work of the 19th century, and the "new" astronomy (astrophysics) of the 20th. Barnard never ceased being an observer to the end of his life, and in many ways it is his spirit that lives on in the form of amateur astronomy at the beginning of the 21st century.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Unforgettable Life and Book 6 Jun 2012
By mk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best biographies I've read in a long time, and I highly recommend it. A clear and well-organized overall presentation, in perfect chronological order, with interesting footnotes placed helpfully at the end of each chapter. The many photographs are wonderful. In addition to the absorbing descriptions and expositions that will leave the receptive reader with the distinct feeling, over time, of having actually met Edward Emerson Barnard (the boy can never be forgotten) the beautiful, starry night skies and the infinitude of the universe will come newly alive in thoughts and visualizations, and knowledge of the science of astronomy, to which Barnard was so utterly devoted, cannot be other than expanded and deepened. And then there is the mysterious title, The Immortal Fire Within, the meaning of which the author to some degree explains but in far larger measure allows each reader to determine for himself or herself.

More expensive than most books, even in the paperback edition, but absolutely worth it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Immortal fire within 6 Oct 2011
By Marilyn HEad - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Couldn't agree more. This is my favourite of Sheehan's superbly written, meticulously researched books. The portrait is delicate and deep as befits the subject.
Five Stars 3 July 2014
By S. Vuille - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the best researched and most poignant biographies I have ever read.
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