Michael Barton, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by Michael Barton)
Popular history-of-science writer Dava Sobel tells the story of how, in the middle of the 16th century, a young mathematician named Rheticus traveled to Poland and convinced an aging Nicolaus Copernicus to publish his controversial theory that the earth, like all other planets, orbited the sun. Since there is no historical record of what happened during the visit beyond later recollections, the “how” is given to the reader as a fictionalized play, And the Sun Stood Still. This drama is flanked on both sides by six chapters that provide background information on the lives of Copernicus and Rheticus and place this event in the history of astronomy and its religious and political context.
While there is nothing new to learn about Copernicus, Sobel’s narrative in the first section of the book is engaging. The play is interesting, but comes across as a history-of-science soap opera full of flat characters. The third part seems too quick an overview of Tycho, Kepler, and Galileo. Overall, A More Perfect Heaven is a suitable introduction for one not familiar with Copernicus, but for those already versed in the history of astronomy, Sobel’s book would not suffice as required reading.
A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos
0 stars -
Walker & Company -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Sobel, author of the bestselling Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, brings something different to the bulging Copernicus canon. She wants to know why Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 — 1543) waited till shortly before his death to publish the universe-expanding ideas that he had previously only quietly circulated among other scientists. Her conclusion: in the midst of Martin Luther's challenge to the Catholic Church, Copernicus, himself a Church canon, feared the Church's response to his radical notion that Earth revolved around the Sun. His thesis, of course, altered nothing less than the our view of our place in the cosmos. Daringly, Sobel embeds within a factual narrative a two-act play in which she imagines the relationship between the aging Copernicus and a young mathematician (and Lutheran) named Georg Joachim Rheticus, who Sobel says 'convinced' the great astronomer 'to publish his crazy idea.' Delivered with her usual stylistic grace (and here, a touch of astrological whimsy), Sobel's gamble largely succeeds in bringing Copernicus and his intellectually and religiously tumultuous time alive. B&w illus., maps. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by New York Times,
"This is a gem of a book."
"As much a tale of intrigue as it is of science...A book full of gems for anyone interested in history, geography, astronomy, navigation, clockmaking, and
"No novelist could improve on the elements of Dava Sobel's Longitude...Intricate and elegant."
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.