Synopses & Reviews
On January 1, 1925, thirty-five-year-old Edwin Hubble announced the observation that ultimately established that our universe was a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed, filled with myriad galaxies like our own. This discovery dramatically reshaped how humans understood their place in the cosmos, and once and for all laid to rest the idea that the Milky Way galaxy was alone in the universe. Six years later, continuing research by Hubble and others forced Albert Einstein to renounce his own cosmic model and finally accept the astonishing fact that the universe was not immobile but instead expanding.
The fascinating story of these interwoven discoveries includes battles of will, clever insights, and wrong turns made by the early investigators in this great twentieth-century pursuit. It is a story of science in the making that shows how these discoveries were not the work of a lone genius but the combined efforts of many talented scientists and researchers toiling away behind the scenes. The intriguing characters include Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the means to measure the vast dimensions of the cosmos . . . Vesto Slipher, the first and unheralded discoverer of the universes expansion . . . Georges Lemaître, the Jesuit priest who correctly interpreted Einsteins theories in relation to the universe . . . Milton Humason, who, with only an eighth-grade education, became a world-renowned expert on galaxy motions . . . and Harlow Shapley, Hubbles nemesis, whose flawed vision of the universe delayed the discovery of its true nature and startling size for more than a decade.
Here is a watershed moment in the history of astronomy, brought about by the exceptional combination of human curiosity, intelligence, and enterprise, and vividly told by acclaimed science writer Marcia Bartusiak.
"Science writer Bartusiak (Through a Universe Darkly) vividly tells the story behind the discovery that changed our cozy view of the universe. One hundred years ago, the Milky Way was all the cosmos we knew, 'a lone, star-filled oasis surrounded by a darkness of unknown depth.' But in 1929, word came that the universe was expanding. The find is largely attributed to astronomer Edwin Hubble, a Rhodes scholar and dandy, while he was observing the heavens through Mount Wilson's 100-inch telescope. Hubble became a media hit, but as Bartusiak explains, this finding was part of a long chain of discoveries made at the time. James Keeler's stellar photographs first revealed mysterious 'celestial flocks' of fainter nebulae, and Henrietta Leavitt's relentless study of variable stars became the basis for determining stellar distances. Hubble's rival, Harlow Shapley, unveiled the architecture of the Milky Way and Earth's insignificant position within it. From the women 'computers' who analyzed stellar photographs for Harvard to Mars-mad Percival Lowell, Bartusiak reveals the vibrant beginnings of modern astronomy, along with all the dreams and fears, rivalries and triumphs, of those involved." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Marcia Bartusiak is an award-winning author whose previous books include Through a Universe Darkly, Thursdays Universe, Einsteins Unfinished Symphony, and Archives of the Universe. Her work has appeared in such publications as National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discover, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. She teaches at MIT and lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts