- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Walker & Company (Nov 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802713904
- ISBN-13: 978-0802713902
- Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.9 x 3.6 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,561,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ms. Ferguson has at least given herself a chance by writing a very good book. Her prose is very engaging. She is detailed both science and biography and yet she is quite easy to understand even for those without a scientific background. And she has two extraordinarily interesting characters to talk about--Brahe, the rather spoiled Danish aristocrat who brought glory to himself against the odds in a "ignoble" profession by becoming the greatest naked eye astronomer in history, and Kepler, the poor German Protestant school teacher who had a knack for doing mathematics and finding trouble.
Though I knew the broad outline of Brahe and Kepler's story, I was surprised again and again by all I did not know. I may not be able to incorporate it all into my classes but I am glad to know the story myself. It is always interesting to see how the great ideas came into being, mostly through more fits, starts and mistakes than most people realize. Anyone interested in scientific history would be foolish to pass up reading this book.
But what's equally interesting are the life and times of these two scientists in the context of 17th Century daily life. Ferguson researches her subject and provides the reader with a story that is a cross between a soap opera and a historical fiction novel. Brahe's castle and observatory were not only architecturally interesting, the life inside the walls was fraught with nasty doings. Brahe, by all reports, had quite the temper. He may have even invented the modern day graduate student-slavey; he kept associates of lower social rank under his thumb for years, paid them a pittance, assigned them menial work, stole their intellectual property and literally imprisoned them in his palace.
If you have an interest in astronomy or philosophy or just plain European history from this era, you should read this. I couldn't put it down. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.