Dante and the Early Astronomer: Science, Adventure, and a Victorian Woman Who Opened the Heavens

Dante and the Early Astronomer: Science, Adventure, and a Victorian Woman Who Opened the Heavens

by Tracy Daugherty


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


Explore the evolution of astronomy from Dante to Einstein, as seen through the eyes of trailblazing Victorian astronomer Mary Acworth Evershed
In 1910, Mary Acworth Evershed (1867–1949) sat on a hill in southern India staring at the moon as she grappled with apparent mistakes in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Was Dante’s astronomy unintelligible? Or was he, for a man of his time and place, as insightful as one could be about the sky?
As the twentieth century began, women who wished to become professional astronomers faced difficult cultural barriers, but Evershed joined the British Astronomical Association and, from an Indian observatory, became an experienced observer of sunspots, solar eclipses, and variable stars. From the perspective of one remarkable amateur astronomer, readers will see how ideas developed during Galileo’s time evolved or were discarded in Newtonian conceptions of the cosmos and then recast in Einstein’s theories. The result is a book about the history of science but also a poetic meditation on literature, science, and the evolution of ideas.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300239898
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 792,494
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tracy Daugherty is distinguished professor of English and creative writing emeritus at Oregon State University and the author of several acclaimed literary books, including the New York Times best‑selling The Last LoveSong: A Biography of Joan Didion. Daugherty’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, the Paris Review, and McSweeney’s.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Dawn-Light of Ravenna xi

Acknowledgments xv

Chapter 1 On the Hilltop 1

Chapter 2 To the Lighthouse 4

Chapter 3 The City of Stars 9

Chapter 4 Poetry and Sunspots 14

Chapter 5 "Black Star-Lore" 28

Chapter 6 Physical Astronomy 36

Chapter 7 Romantics 40

Chapter 8 Prisms 56

Chapter 9 The Notebook of the Sun 62

Chapter 10 The Gift of the Forest 78

Chapter 11 The Scarcity of Wasps in Kashmir 89

Chapter 12 Harmonic Structures 98

Chapter 13 "Dante and the Early Astronomers" 112

Chapter 14 Sun-Chasers 117

Chapter 15 Exploding the Sun 122

Chapter 16 Saturnalia 128

Chapter 17 Infinity and the Fly 131

Chapter 18 Wallal 138

Chapter 19 Departure 149

Chapter 20 Who's Who in the Moon 153

Chapter 21 The Maunder Minimum 159

Chapter 22 The Remade Universe 163

Chapter 23 Return to Origins 167

Chapter 24 Northern Lights 169

Epilogue: Kodai Dusk 177

Notes 181

Bibliography 199

Index 207

Customer Reviews