The Day We Found the Universe
The Day We Found the Universe
Pantheon Books, Hardcover, 9780375424298, 337pp.
Publication Date: April 7, 2009
On January 1, 1925, thirty-five-year-old Edwin Hubble announced the observation that ultimately established that our universe was a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed, filled with myriad galaxies like our own. This discovery dramatically reshaped how humans understood their place in the cosmos, and once and for all laid to rest the idea that the Milky Way galaxy was alone in the universe. Six years later, continuing research by Hubble and others forced Albert Einstein to renounce his own cosmic model and finally accept the astonishing fact that the universe was not immobile but instead expanding.
The fascinating story of these interwoven discoveries includes battles of will, clever insights, and wrong turns made by the early investigators in this great twentieth-century pursuit. It is a story of science in the making that shows how these discoveries were not the work of a lone genius but the combined efforts of many talented scientists and researchers toiling away behind the scenes. The intriguing characters include Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the means to measure the vast dimensions of the cosmos . . . Vesto Slipher, the first and unheralded discoverer of the universe’s expansion . . . Georges Lemaître, the Jesuit priest who correctly interpreted Einstein’s theories in relation to the universe . . . Milton Humason, who, with only an eighth-grade education, became a world-renowned expert on galaxy motions . . . and Harlow Shapley, Hubble’s nemesis, whose flawed vision of the universe delayed the discovery of its true nature and startling size for more than a decade.
Here is a watershed moment in the history of astronomy, brought about by the exceptional combination of human curiosity, intelligence, and enterprise, and vividly told by acclaimed science writer Marcia Bartusiak.
“Bartusiak's intelligent and engaging book may well become the standard popular account."–Washington Post
“Delivered with wit, clarity and occasional drama, Marcia Bartusiak's The Day We Found the Universe is a small wonder….A science writer of rare gifts…Bartusiak manages to convey the mind-bending complexity of the astronomers' task and the scope of the work while never losing sight of the human elements (fame, ego, pioneer spirit, competitive drive) that drive the pursuit."–San Francisco Chronicle
“This tale is not about breakthroughs. It focuses on the dramatic insights, sidesteps and missed opportunities, persistence, pride and bits of luck that accompany the scientific process….Bartusiak's account never gets boring and never feels anticlimactic. Instead, moments of drama and intimacy make the reader forget…the final outcome: the Milky Way is merely one of many stellar collections in a vast universe."–Science News
“[A] fascinating and accessible book.”–Boston Globe
“Bartusiak chronicles the cosmic explorations that helped make [Edwin] Hubble a star. A journalist specializing in science, she knows how to cut to the chase. Her account is informative, dramatic, and accessible….She sings songs to unsung heroes.”–Tulsa World
“With her trademark mix of meticulous research and vibrant prose, Bartusiak weaves these discoveries into a narrative equal to the excitement of that convulsive decade.”–Seed Magazine
“Compelling. . . . Meticulously researched . . . highly readable.”--New Scientist
“Bartusiak, a renowned science writer, has crafted a remarkable story of the events and people leading to our awakening comprehension of the larger universe. [She] presents figures…with the skill of a novelist; their personalities transcend the page. This book will appeal to a wide readership.”–Library Journal
“Bartusiak explores the technical aspects of Hubble’s findings in an accessible way and skillfully profiles the many researchers who helped lay the groundwork for Hubble’s momentous discovery….The author ably rescues these neglected figures from historical obscurity…bringing many of the scientists to vivid life….A dynamic journey through an important period in the history of astronomy.”–Kirkus Reviews
“One of our most thrilling science writers, has captured the excitement of the amazing years at the beginning of the 20th century when we truly discovered our universe. With a great cast of astronomers and physicists—from Lowell to Hale to Hubble to Einstein—this book is a cosmic delight.”
—Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
“We live in an expanding universe, and our Milky Way is just one of billions of galaxies—now-standard facts established in the 1920s and 1930s. Bartusiak gives a vivid impression of what it was like at that time to be an astronomer leading these cosmic explorations. A scholarly and highly readable book.”
—Martin Rees, Great Britain's Astronomer Royal and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge University
“Astrophysicists remember the 1920s as the birth of modern cosmology—a time rich with colorful characters and stunning revelations of our place in the universe. Bartusiak brings this explosive period of cosmic discovery to life.”
—Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
“A brilliant look back into the history of science. This vibrant book opens a door to a far-off time and place, and brings that place to life for us.”
—David H. Levy, president, National Sharing the Sky Foundation