The Planet-Girded Suns: The Long History of Belief in Exoplanets

Sylvia Engdahl
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Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets--a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th century was it thought that life-bearing extrasolar planets are rare.

This is not a science book--rather, it belongs to the category known as History of Ideas. First published by Atheneum in 1974, it tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of widespread conviction that we are not alone in the universe. In this updated edition the chapters dealing with modern views have been revised to reflect the progress science has made during the past 40 years, including the actual detection of planets orbiting other stars.

More poetry from past centuries, source notes, and an extensive bibliography have been added to this edition. In addition it contains a new Afterword, "Confronting the Universe in the Twenty-First Century," discussing the relevance of past upheavals in human thought to an understanding of the hiatus in space exploration that has followed the Apollo moon landings.
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Sylvia Engdahl
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Published on
Jul 28, 2016
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Science / Astronomy
Science / History
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A towering figure in intellectual history and one of the fathers of modern astronomy, the great mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) is best known for his discovery of the three laws of planetary motion, which paved the way for a dynamic explanation of the heavenly phenomena. At a time when the Ptolemaic view still prevailed in official circles, Kepler undertook to prove the truth of the Copernican world view and through exceptional perseverance and force of intellect achieved that goal.
His epochal intellectual feats are completely and thoroughly described in this splendid work, considered the definitive biography of Kepler. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, the author presents a fascinating and erudite picture of Kepler's scientific accomplishments, his public life (work with Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer; mathematical appointments at Graz, Prague, and Linz; pioneering work with calculus and optics, and more) and his personal life: childhood and youth, financial situation, his mother's trial as a witch, his own lifelong fear of religious persecution, his difficulties in choosing one of eleven possible young women as his second wife, and more, through his last years in Ulm and death in Regensburg.
Until his death in 1956, Professor Max Caspar was the world's foremost Kepler scholar. He had spent over two-thirds of his life assembling, cataloging, describing, analyzing, and editing Kepler's works. To this biography he brought tremendous learning and passionate enthusiasm for his subject, creating an unsurpassed resource on the life and work of one of history's greatest scientific minds. Originally published in German and superbly translated into English by C. Doris Hellman, Kepler will fascinate scholars and general readers alike.
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