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The Georgian Star: How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos (Great Discoveries) Hardcover – 10 Feb 2009
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Lemonick paints a vibrant and revealing picture of these two scientists whose painstaking observation and cataloguing paved the way for modern astronomy. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
A former senior science writer at Time, Michael Lemonick is the author of several books, including Echo of the Big Bang. He teaches at Princeton, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins Universities, and lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
Top Customer Reviews
What William Herschel achieved, thanks to his audacity, industry, irrepressible and almost maniacally driven character, is simply astonishing. And that he took his sister along with him for the ride, enabling her to become a celebrated astronomer in her own right (indeed, as far as we know the world's first profesional, i.e. salaried, female astronomer*) just adds to the depth and warmth of the tale. Quite what Herschel might've been like to be around is hard to say, although he seems to have charmed most people he met, helping a complete outsider - neither a 'gentlemen' nor a professional 'natural philosopher' - become not only the world's pre-eminent astronomer, but also the greatest manufacturer of the best quality telescopes and a cosmologist of the first rank. Indeed, his work so greatly expanded our concepts of the cosmos that he might arguably be said to be in the very first rank of what today we understand to be meant by the term cosmologist.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Lemonick is a gifted writer and the reader will find here one of the finest scientific biographies on the market. The Herschels went from being first rate musicians (William and his brothers were prodigies and Caroline became a beautiful singer by practicing with a gag in her mouth) to being masters of an emerging science. They deserve an excellent modern biography and they have it in this book.
In the 1700s, William and Caroline Herschel were born into a Germany family of talented musicians. William ended up in England (easy to do as George III of England was also the Elector of Hanover). He then smuggled his sister over when their mother refused to let her leave Germany (mother Anna did not want to lose Caroline's domestic services). Both siblings were professional musicians. Caroline was a singer, while William served as organist, choir master, composer and instrumentalist in various English churches. But both William and Caroline became fascinated by astronomy and began on a course to study the cosmos. In addition, he began building his own telescopes--which happened to be much stronger than those being used by professionals. William wasn't taken very seriously at first, but eventually earned the respect of professional scientists of the day. He was even awarded a pension by George III, which allowed him to quit music forever and focus all his energies on stargazing.
During his long life, William made many discoveries--including the planet, Uranus, as well as the existence of infrared radiation. His sister also made a number of discoveries (mostly comets) but was especially talented in organizing and cataloguing "all of the 2500 nebulae and star clusters she and William had discovered." Her efforts also earned her a pension from the king.
I find the study of astronomy fascinating, although if it gets too technical, my eyes begin to glaze over. The Georgian Star was the perfect book in explaining much about our knowledge of astronomy, but in an understandable way. Lemonick also explains how the work done by both William and Caroline is still relevant today.
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