Summary and book reviews of Stargazer by Fred Watson

Stargazer

The Life and Times of the Telescope

by Fred Watson

Stargazer
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2005, 360 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2006, 352 pages

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Book Summary

'Provides a fine overview of the 400-year history of the telescope...Watson relates intriguing stories while providing them with a rich cultural context...gathering all of this material in one place and presenting it in such an engaging style is a considerable accomplishment.'

The telescope is undoubtedly one of the world's most far-reaching inventions. For the past four centuries the telescope has stood at the forefront of human discovery. From its humble beginnings in seventeenth-century Holland, when a simple spectacle-maker first presented his invention to his country's military leaders, to today's colossal structures housed in space-age cathedrals, the telescope has unlocked nature's secrets. And in the past decade, the Hubble Space Telescope has brought us to the very edges of the universe, and the very beginning of time. How did the telescope—a potent mix of art, science, and engineering—reach its present level of sophistication?

The history of the telescope is a rich story of human ingenuity and perseverance involving some of the most colorful figures of the scientific world—Galileo, Johann Kepler, Isaac Newton, William Herschel, George Ellery Hale, and Edwin Hubble. Stargazer brings to life the story of these brilliant, and sometime quirky, scientists as they turned their eyes and ideas beyond what anyone thought possible. Professor Fred Watson, one of Australia's top astronomers, writes clearly and skillfully, without technical jargon but with a dash of humor, explaining the science and technology behind the telescope, and the enormous impact that it has had for four hundred years on how we have come to understand our universe.

Chapter 1
Power Telescopes


Boldly Into The New Millenium


There is no better way to sample the state of the art of telescope-building—nor the promise of what is to come—than by attending an international telescope symposium, and that is where we start our story. Such events are not everyday occurrences, but the year 2000 saw a gathering of such significance that its deliberations will reverberate long and loud through the annals of astronomy. It was a very large meeting, embracing no less than thirteen separate conferences. It attracted 1,300 scientists, engineers, directors of institutions and household-name professors, all with a common interest in the tools of the astronomer's trade. In that broad forum, the mysteries of the Universe met the nuts and bolts of engineering, and in the willing hands of its participants lay the future of the telescope.

The symposium's title brashly declared its spirit: 'Power Telescopes and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If you're passionate about astronomy and things scientific this is obviously a book not to miss; however, even if you're not particularly interested in science you'll likely enjoy browsing this expansive excerpt which will take you on a whistle-stop tour of modern astronomers and their very big toys,   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal - Sara Rutter

Watson describes in readable, engaging prose the technical obstacles to improving our knowledge of the universe and the stories of the people who moved-and continue to move-the technology forward.... this book will appeal to many, including students of the history of astronomy and amateur astronomers.

Kirkus Reviews

A fine piece of science writing, from an author as intelligibly capable as Brian Greene or Richard Dawkins.

Booklist

Often funny, occasionally poignant, and definitely accessible.

Publishers Weekly

Watson relates intriguing stories while providing them with a rich cultural context. While still interesting, the work is less compelling when Watson provides specifics about the physics and optics of telescopes. And with so much ground to cover, he rarely delves deeply and provides little if any new information. Yet gathering all of this material in one place and presenting it in such an engaging style is a considerable accomplishment.

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Beyond the Book

Dr Fred Watson is Astronomer-in-Charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory at Coonabarabran in central New South Wales, where he is responsible for the scientific output of Australia's largest optical telescope. His articles have appeared in many well-known journals, including New Scientist, Sky & Telescope and Astronomy Now. He is a frequent broadcaster, and has a monthly phone in show on Australian radio.

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