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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic Tale, Great Book..., 12 Aug 2007
By 
RPF (Middlesex) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began (Hardcover)
I have to confess that despite a long interest in Astronomy, Richard Carrington was unknown to me. Stuart Clark redresses this and tells Richard Carrington's tragic tale (and it really is tragic) with consummate skill and ease. I will leave future readers to discover the tragedy, but Richard Carrington observed an enormous solar flare in 1859, one that would appear to be the largest ever recorded, and its subsequent aurora on Earth. The connection between the two was unknown at the time and now it seems surprising that so many eminent scientists were ready to dismiss the link. Interwoven with Richard Carrington's tale, the author relates the work of many other scientists that have contributed to our understanding of the Sun. Jealously, love, money and animosity all enter into this tale.

Some scientists now believe that the Sun directly affects global warming and global cooling, regardless, or in addition to, the Earth's atmosphere and greenhouse gases within it. A final interesting chapter of the book examines how past observations may support that theory. The prices of wheat have never seemed so relevant before!

So many popular science books fail to live up to my expectations, but I can assure you that this is a very well written book and a very satisfying read. Sir Patrick Moore reviewed this book and concluded that it is an essential purchase for your library. And let's face it, he can't be wrong!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dawn of astrophysics, 4 July 2007
By 
Dr. S. A. Mitton "Simon Mitton" (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began (Hardcover)
This is an excellent account about how the study of our daytime star ushered in the new science of astrophysics. This book is popular science writing at its best. The science concerns the recognition that the Sun exerts a serious hold over the Earth: solar flares and solar magnetism have direct effects, such as the phenomenon of the aurora. This account scores with its detail in terms of the people who made it all happen: tragic Richard Carrington, William Herschel, Warren de la Rue ,and Walter Maunder. If you like reading about the history of astronomy,you will find this account deeply rewarding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientists as people, 15 Jan 2009
This review is from: The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began (Hardcover)
Of all the objects in our sky, the sun is undoubtedly the most important. Without it, our little planet would be a lifeless ball of ice. But the sun's importance means that when something is stirring on the sun, things on earth change, from our weather to our ability to communicate over long distances. This book is about how astronomy, which had been interested mostly in the stars, became interested in our closest star.

The author does an excellent job of blending science with the often quirky lives of those who make science, along with the culture out of which science comes. In this case, the culture is that of mid-nineteenth century Britain, a society in which even a self-taught amateur such as Richard Carrington could become a well-respected astronomer.

Given the author's success with this book and at portraying scientists and people rather than icons, I can only hope he next takes up the equally fascinating and controversy-filled development of quantum mechanics in the early twentieth century.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of Eugenics and Other Evils : An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and exciting book, 11 Jan 2014
By 
DaveK (Reigate, UK) - See all my reviews
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Living less than a mile from the Richard Carrington's Redhill Observatory (and my wife having lived at one time only a stone's throw away!), I'd looked forward to hearing Stuart Clark speak one evening at Astronomia in Dorking. The event was unfortunately cancelled, but I finally received this book as a Christmas present. And what a wonderful piece of writing this is. The author brings the surprisingly little known Carrington to life in such a way as to make one wonder why his name does not feature alongside all the more famous astronomers appearing in this fascinating story. Carrington admittedly only features in a proportion of the book, but his importance to the development of investigative astronomy and to the need to understand the functioning of the sun and its link to earth is brought out with clarity, pace and excitement. Carrington's contribution to solar science and the understanding of meteorological phenomena is particularly important in the context of the extreme weather events that we now are seeing with increasing regularity.

My enjoyment of this book was also boosted by an unexpected coincidence. I had read the section on Carrington's key observation of the 1859 flare whilst enjoying my morning cup of tea in bed. About an hour later I set up my little PST H-alpha solar telescope at the rising sun to see a massive new sunspot group (AR 1944) rounding the limb of the sun. I carried out my regular sketching of the visible features, but to my delight on revisiting the sun 3 hours later saw an intense flare peaking in the middle of the sunspot group! How wonderful that even casual amateur astronomers can so easily see the same type of events discovered by Carrington and which triggered a revolution in astronomy.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular science at its best, 22 Jan 2008
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This review is from: The Sun Kings: The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began (Hardcover)
This book kept me captivated and was a delight to read. Not only has it been carefully researched from the scientific point of view, but it has lots of fascinating personal details of the lives of those who struggled to show that the Sun has a great deal of influence on the Earth's climate and human affairs.
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5.0 out of 5 stars revelation, 12 April 2014
By 
Mike (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an extraordinary book about an extraordinary event, and how it has changed our ideas about the creation of life, and our superstitions.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten pioneer, 7 July 2010
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This book tells the story of Richard Carrington and other pioneers of early astronomy. Although dealing with arcane topics it is written in such an accessible style that anyone can understand it. The tales of scientific skulduggery will astound you and its conclusions cast much doubt on the hypothesis of Global Warming by man-made gases. In addition, the story of Richard Carrington's observation and its terrestrial effects must sound a note of caution to all those advocating a digital future. Not to put too fine a point on it, such a flare today would reduce virtually all electronic equipment to useless junk. All in all, it is a fine tale, told in a readable and gripping manner. Read it, you will enjoy it, the twists and turns of the story are as good as any detective story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and fascinating read, 9 Mar 2010
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2009 was the 150th anniversary of one of the most important events in Science. Yes, I hear you say, we all know about Charles Darwin publishing The Origin of Species -- but that`s not what I`m referring to. No, just before noon on September 1st 1859, the British astronomer Richard Carrington observed a huge solar flare which caused a massive coronal mass ejection (CME), to travel directly toward Earth, causing a huge geomagnetic storm, and the failure of telegraph systems all around the world.
The Sun Kings, written by Stuart Clark, is a fascinating account of the Carrington Event as it has become known, and also a vivid unveiling of the life of Carrington which was touched by frustration and tragedy.
On the morning of Thursday 1st September 1859, he opened up his two-metre-long brass telescope and manoeuvred it into position so it could project an eleven-inch image of the Sun onto a board with two gold crosswires.
What he saw that day astounded him -- a sunspot complex that was ten times the diameter of the Earth! He was then taken aback when two sets of intense bright light appeared over the sunspot group. These were Coronal Mass Ejections.
Eighteen hours later, there were almighty displays of Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. And there was disruption of the global telegraph system like nothing before.
The Sun Kings documents not just these events and Carrington`s attempts to make sense of them (often disputed by the scientific establishment), but also the personal and private life of Carrington, and in particular his disastrous marriage -- which these days would be a topic on The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Stuart Clark has written an astounding book, which manages to be both informative and hugely entertaining.
I recommend this brilliant work without any reservation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and fascinating history, 30 Oct 2009
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A story of astronomy that I was not familiar with and very interesting indeed. It has made me think a lot more about the effect that the Sun has on our planet.
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