5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Voices from the past,
This review is from: New Stars for Old: Stories from the History of Astronomy (Hardcover)
This is brilliant! This series of stories about characters from the history of astronomy takes us from place to place, time to time, with different voices each telling their own story - all linked by the history of man's attempts to understand our place in the heavens.
The basic ideas discussed by each character are clearly explained and easy to follow. However the book is not really "about" the scientific theories themselves - there are no equations or diagrams. It is more about questions such as: What did these characters see the theories as representing - a real description of how the heavens work, or a convenient formula for predicting the movements of the planets? How did the theories fit in (or not) with philosophical and religious ideas at the time? How did the characters reconcile the problems or flaws in the theories? And how did they decide whether a theory was right or wrong? Often these questions have surprising answers!
Each character in the sequence is seen in the context of the society they are living in. The pressures and concerns of their time, and the limitations of the available technology, all influence the ways the characters present their ideas to the world and what happens to them. All the characters featured have fascinating stories to tell and their situations are vividly drawn. Some characters are very likeable and others not! The writing style is clear, direct and free of pseudo-archaisms, so the voices seem to speak to us as if sitting in the same room. Each story is followed by a brief commentary from a modern perspective and this helps draw everything together into a coherent whole.