Cosmos: An Illustrated History of Astronomy and Cosmology

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

“Soon after completing this work, John David North died following a heroic battle with cancer, and the history of astronomy community lost one of its few great contemporary generalists. I sometimes wonder what Otto Neugebauer would have said about Cosmos. Probably he would have harrumphed and declared, ‘It isn't long enough.’ But at 900 brilliant pages, we could hardly ask for more.”

Times Literary Supplement

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Isis - author unlisted
“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.”
Desmond King-Hele
“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.”
Sir Bernard Lovell
Astronomy and Cosmology is the remarkable story of the sustained human endeavor to understand our place in the universe.”
Guardian - P. D. Smith
“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.'"”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226594415
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 736
  • Sales rank: 538,799
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John North (1934-2008) was professor emeritus at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He was 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.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Plates
Credits
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Present Edition
Note on Numbers and Units
Introduction
 
1 PREHISTORIC ASTRONOMY
 
2 ANCIENT EGYPT
 
3 MESOPOTAMIA
 
4 THE GREEK AND ROMAN WORLDS
 
5 CHINA AND JAPAN
 
6 PRE-COLUMBIAN AMERICA
 
7 INDIAN AND PERSIAN ASTRONOMY
 
8 EASTERN ISLAM
 
9 WESTERN ISLAM AND CHRISTIAN SPAIN
 
10 MEDIEVAL AND EARLY RENAISSANCE EUROPE
 
11 COPERNICUS’ PLANETARY THEORY
 
12 THE NEW EMPIRICISM
 
13 THE RISE OF PHYSICAL ASTRONOMY
 
14 NEW ASTRONOMICAL PROBLEMS
 
15 PRECISION AND THE NEW ASTROPHYSICS
 
16 GALAXIES, STARS, AND ATOMS
 
17 THE RENEWAL OF COSMOLOGY
 
18 RADIO ASTRONOMY
 
19 OBSERVATORIES IN SPACE
 
20 MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM
 
Bibliographical Survey
Index

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