The Story of Astronomy

The Story of Astronomy

The Story of Astronomy

The Story of Astronomy

Synopsis

Jefferson Hane Weaver co-authored (with Lloyd Motz) the highly popular book Conquering Mathematics. He received his M. A., his M. Phil., and his Ph. D. at the Columbia Graduate School of the Arts and Sciences. He lives in Fort Lauderdale with his wife, Shelley, and his four children.

Excerpt

Of all the scientific disciplines Astronomy stands out as the all-encompassing one in that all the other sciences grew out of astronomy and are still influenced by it. A history of astronomy, to be complete, should trace these interscience relationships to some extent, but the story of astronomy is not subject to these constraints. By the very designation as a "story," this book was designed, and so written, to delineate the high points of astronomy and to trace the evolution of the great astronomical ideas from their birth as pure speculations in the minds of the great astronomers of the past to their present fully developed and fully accepted state.

This, of course, entails a fuller discussion of the astronomers themselves than one might find in a history of astronomy or in a straightforward treatise in astronomy. We have emphasized this phase of the story of astronomy in this book. This has been very fruitful and revealed the intimate relationship among the sciences: particularly astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

One can hardly speak of Kepler, Galileo, or Newton without describing their holistic approaches to astronomy. Thus Galileo considered himself a mathematician who speculated all phases of nature and Newton was the great polymath who contributed to all phases of mathematics, astronomy, and physics, seeking in each of these disciplines the theoretical bridges to the others, and the great nineteenth century mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss greatly enriched astronomy by applying his great mathematical skill to the solution of complex astronomical problems. And so it went, culminating in Einstein's great theoretical discoveries of the photon and the theory of relativity that ushered in our current rational approach to cosmology.

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