Measuring the Universe: Cosmic Dimensions from Aristarchus to Halley

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

Measuring the Universe is the first history of the evolution of cosmic dimensions, from the work of Eratosthenes and Aristarchus in the third century B.C. to the efforts of Edmond Halley (1656—1742).

"Van Helden's authoritative treatment is concise and informative; he refers to numerous sources of information, draws on the discoveries of modern scholarship, and presents the first book-length treatment of this exceedingly important branch of science."—Edward Harrison, American Journal of Physics

"Van Helden writes well, with a flair for clear explanation. I warmly recommend this book."—Colin A. Ronan, Journal of the British Astronomical Association
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About the author

Albert Van Helden is professor of history at Rice University and the author of The Invention of the Telescope.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Dec 15, 2010
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Pages
212
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ISBN
9780226848907
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Astronomy
Science / General
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Heavens on Earth explores the place of the observatory in nineteenth-century science and culture. Astronomy was a core pursuit for observatories, but usually not the only one. It belonged to a larger group of “observatory sciences” that also included geodesy, meteorology, geomagnetism, and even parts of physics and statistics. These pursuits coexisted in the nineteenth-century observatory; this collection surveys them as a coherent whole. Broadening the focus beyond the solitary astronomer at his telescope, it illuminates the observatory’s importance to technological, military, political, and colonial undertakings, as well as in advancing and popularizing the mathematical, physical, and cosmological sciences.

The contributors examine “observatory techniques” developed and used not only in connection with observatories but also by instrument makers in their workshops, navy officers on ships, civil engineers in the field, and many others. These techniques included the calibration and coordination of precision instruments for making observations and taking measurements; methods of data acquisition and tabulation; and the production of maps, drawings, and photographs, as well as numerical, textual, and visual representations of the heavens and the earth. They also encompassed the social management of personnel within observatories, the coordination of international scientific collaborations, and interactions with dignitaries and the public. The state observatory occupied a particularly privileged place in the life of the city. With their imposing architecture and ancient traditions, state observatories served representative purposes for their patrons, whether as symbols of a monarch’s enlightened power, a nation’s industrial and scientific excellence, or republican progressive values. Focusing on observatory techniques in settings from Berlin, London, Paris, and Rome to Australia, Russia, Thailand, and the United States, The Heavens on Earth is a major contribution to the history of science.

Contributors: David Aubin, Charlotte Bigg, Guy Boistel, Theresa Levitt, Massimo Mazzotti, Ole Molvig, Simon Schaffer, Martina Schiavon , H. Otto Sibum, Richard Staley, John Tresch, Simon Werrett, Sven Widmalm

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