It has been my object in these pages to present the life of each astronomer in such detail as to enable the reader to realise in some degree the man's character and surroundings; and I have endeavoured to indicate as clearly as circumstances would permit the main features of the discoveries by which he has become known.
Ptolemy succeeded in devising a scheme by which the apparent changes that take place in the heavens could, so far as he knew them, be explained by certain combinations of circular movement. This seemed to reconcile so completely the scheme of things celestial with the geometrical instincts which pointed to the circle as the type of perfect movement, that we can hardly wonder Ptolemy's theory met with the astonishing success that attended it. We shall, therefore, set forth with sufficient detail the various steps of this famous doctrine.
Ptolemy commences with laying down the undoubted truth that the shape of the earth is globular. The proofs which he gives of this fundamental fact are quite satisfactory; they are indeed the same proofs as we give today. There is, first of all, the well-known circumstance of which our books on geography remind us, that when an object is viewed at a distance across the sea, the lower part of the object appears cut off by the interposing curved mass of water.
The sagacity of Ptolemy enabled him to adduce another argument, which, though not quite so obvious as that just mentioned, demonstrates the curvature of the earth in a very impressive manner to anyone who will take the trouble to understand it. Ptolemy mentions that travellers who went to the south
At the moment of writing the author was Professor of Astronomy and Geometry at the University of Cambridge. In this book the lives of 18 astronomers are discribed, some of them are known to everyone, but some are not so generally known. The book starts with an introduction of a few pages on the history of astronomy.
A list of the astronomers featured in this book:
PTOLEMY, COPERNICUS, TYCHO BRAHE, GALILEO, KEPLER, ISAAC NEWTON, FLAMSTEED, HALLEY, BRADLEY, WILLIAM HERSCHEL, LAPLACE, BRINKLEY, JOHN HERSCHEL, THE EARL OF ROSSE, AIRY, HAMILTON, LE VERRIER, ADAMS.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the history of astronomy or science, and of course to everybody who is interested in any of the astronomers depicted in this book. I did find the manner in which this book was written quite dull and lifeless ('2-stars'), but because of the information it gives (worth '4-stars') I give it a '3-star' review.
Most of this book is like a bucket of gravel--deadly dull and lifeless. But there is a nugget of gold amongst the gravel--the chapter on astronomer Cecil Stawell Stonecipher.
As an astronomer, Mr. Stonecipher made very few ripples in the scientific community; he co-authored a little known paper on the possible eccentric orbit of Rectos, the 4th moon of Neptune, read by possibly 30 people worldwide.
But when Mr. Stonecipher left his telescope and lab--that's when he became truly great and worthy of mention in this book. Cecil Stawell Stonecipher lived two lives; his scientific life and a sporting life. During the summer months he removed his lab coat and glasses and donned the uniform of the old Cincinnati Red Stockings and became 'Three-Fingered' Stonecipher, one of the most skilled and feared pitchers in all of professional baseball. He once stabbed rival Cy Young in the throat with a #2 pencil during a bar fight. He once ********* a young Ty Cobb during a bench-clearing melee in Detroit. He briefly married American actress and singer Lillian Russell but divorced her when she complained about him wearing his baseball shoes in bed.
So to all you kids out there; always look for the nugget of gold in that bucket of gravel.