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An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology

John North


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (7/15/2008)


For millennia humans have studied the skies to help them grow crops, navigate the seas, and earn favor from their gods. We still look to the stars today for answers to fundamental questions: How did the universe begin? Will it end, and if so, how? What is our place within it? John North has been examining such questions for decades. In Cosmos, he offers a sweeping historical survey of the two sciences that help define our place in the universe: astronomy and cosmology.
            Organizing his history chronologically, North begins by examining Paleolithic cave drawings that clearly chart the phases of the moon. He then investigates scientific practices in the early civilizations of Egypt, Greece, China, and the Americas (among others), whose inhabitants developed sophisticated methods to record the movements of the planets and stars. Trade routes and religious movements, North notes, brought these ancient styles of scientific thinking to the attention of later astronomers, whose own theories—such as Copernicus’ planetary theory—led to the Scientific Revolution.
            The work of master astronomers, including Ptolemy, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, is described in detail, as are modern-day developments in astrophysics, such as the advent of radio astronomy, the brilliant innovations of Einstein, and the many recent discoveries brought about with the help of the Hubble telescope. This new edition brings North’s seminal book right up to the present day, as North takes a closer look at last year’s reclassification of Pluto as a “dwarf” planet and gives a thorough overview of current research.
            With more than two hundred illustrations and a comprehensive bibliography, Cosmos is the definitive history of astronomy and cosmology. It is sure to find an eager audience among historians of science and astronomers alike.

Praise For Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology

“Comprehensive in scope, with massive detail, this latest volume in Norton’s ‘History of Science’ series surveys facts and ideas about the universe from prehistoric observations, ancient mythologies, and rational speculations to space exploration, radio astronomy, and modern cosmogony. . . . North focuses on recent advances in instruments (telescope, spectroscope, antenna, camera, rocket) and new theories in physics that have brought about remarkable discoveries in astronomy (quasars, pulsars, supernovae) and dynamic models in cosmology.”
— James Birx

“A book that should be read by every historian of science who wishes to get the history of astronomy right. It also has a good deal to teach the specialists in that field. John North is one of our most distinguished historians of astronomy and by far the most versatile. . . . No one is more qualified to undertake a survey of the entire history of the oldest science, and North has done so with a judgment and clarity that can serve as a model.”
— author unlisted

“This book is a major achievement that trembles on the brink of being a masterpiece. . . . North is well qualified to write this book: he has a lifetime of experience in the history of astronomy and a narrative style that is a pleasure to read.”
— Desmond King-Hele, winner of the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1971 and author of, among others, Erasmus Darwin: A Life of Unequalled Achievement .

Astronomy and Cosmology is the remarkable story of the sustained human endeavor to understand our place in the universe.”
— Sir Bernard Lovell, British physicist and radio astronomer and author of many books including Pathways to the Universe

“At nearly 900 pages, this is a suitably monumental book about the biggest subject of all: the cosmos. . . . This remarkable work brings together the global history, theories, people and technologies of astronomy to tell a story that 'has very few intellectual parallels in the whole of human history.'"”

— P. D. Smith

University of Chicago Press, 9780226594408, 736pp.

Publication Date: July 15, 2008

About the Author

John North (1934-2008) was professor emeritus at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Hewas the author of many books, including "The Measure of the Universe: A History of Modern Cosmology," "The Ambassadors Secret: Holbein and the World of the Renaissance, "and, most recently, "God s Clockmaker: Richard Wallingford and the Invention of Time. """"