Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics

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Overview

This biography of Agnes Clerke describes the life and work of this extraordinarily erudite but unassuming woman. Her story is also a chronicle of the development of astronomy in the last decades of pre-Einstein science, and introduces many of the great figures in astronomy of that age, Huggins, Lockyer, Holden, Pickering, Gill, Vogel and Hale, and their achievements and their rivalries. Her life was closely linked with that of her talented journalist sister Ellen, whose activities throw further light on Agnes Clerke's personality and motivation. The story follows her friendship with William and Margaret Huggins, and her prolific correspondence with eminent astronomers of the time such as David Gill of the Cape and George Ellery Hale of California. This biography of Agnes Clerke will fascinate not only scientists but everyone who admires intellectual achievement brought about through love of learning and sheer hard work.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
A biography of the author of that touches upon the state of astronomy as a science in the pre-Einstein years and discusses many of the contributions of her scientific colleagues to the science. The work follows her life from her birth in rural Ireland in 1842, through her professional life in London, to her death in 1907. Astronomer Brück links Clerke's life with that of her sister Ellen, a poet and journalist for the English Catholic press. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"BrÜck has written an excellent book. Her thorough research in numerous archives and in Clerke's publications is well documented in the notes, and numerous well-chosen photographs illustrate the text. There is an extremely informative chapter on women in astronomy in the Victorian era... BrÜck paints a fascinating picture of the rich fabric of British astronomy and astrophysics at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a highly readable, well-produced, attractive book." Nature

"This first full-length biography of Clerke, a woman historian of astronomy of the last half of the 19th century, also details a significangt period in the rise of modern astrophysics with the development of larger and better telescopes, the use of photography in the mapping of the skies, and the invention of the spectroheliograph. Working primarily from archival sources, BrÜck has written a detailed, scholarly, and thorough account of both the life and the work of relatively unknown Irish woman of science. The careful documentation includes photographs of the astronomers and their work." Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521808446
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Bruck gained her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Edinburgh, where she went on to become a Senior Lecturer in astronomy. Her main research interest was in photographic stellar photometry and spectroscopy. Now retired, she has a special interest in nineteenth century British and Irish women in astronomy, about whom she has written numerous articles. In 2001, Dr Bruck was awarded the Lorimer Medal of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. Family background in County Cork; 2. Ireland and Italy; 3. London, the literary scene; 4. The History of Astronomy; 5. A circle of astronomers; 6. A visit to South Africa; 7. The System of the Stars; 8. Social life in scientific circles; 9. Homer, the Herschels and a revised History; 10. The opinion moulder; 11. Popularisation, cryogenics and evolution; 12. Problems in Astrophysics; 13. Women in astronomy in Britain in Agnes Clerke's time; 14. Revised System of the Stars; 15. Cosmogonies, cosmology and Nature's spiritual clues; 16. Last days and retrospect; 17. Epilogue; Notes; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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