MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago

The Northern Lights

The True Story of the Man Who Unlocked the Secrets of the Aurora Borealis

by Lucy Jago

The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago X
The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2001, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2002, 320 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

An exhaustively researched and thrillingly told saga of one man's compulsive quest to discover the origins of the Northern Lights.

Throughout the ages, the lights of the aurora borealis were believed to be messengers of gods, signs of apocalypse, or souls of the dead; even the most sophisticated scientists misapprehended their cause. Now Lucy Jago tells the story of the science---and the romance---behind the Northern Lights as she traces the grand adventure of the life of the visionary Norwegian scientist Kristian Birkeland.

At the age of thirty-one, Birkeland set out on a lifelong, increasingly compulsive quest to discover the origins of the aurora borealis. He traveled across some of the most forbidding landscapes on Earth, from the ice mountains of Norway to the deserts of Africa, against a backdrop of war and political upheaval. Along the way, Birkeland made some remarkable discoveries and inventions, such as the idea of hearing aids for deaf patients;
of making caviar from cod roe; and of using the force of cathode rays to propel rockets. No country's armed forces ever adopted his electromagnetic cannon, but the technology has since been adapted and extended to make "railguns" (electromagnetic mass accelerators) for the American Strategic Defense Initiative---the so-called "Star Wars" Defense.

Ultimately, Kristian Birkeland's obsession with the workings of the cosmos cost him his health, his happiness, and his sanity---perhaps even his life. He spent his final days in exile in Egypt, and died in 1917 in Japan, under suspicious circumstances, his groundbreaking theories unheralded; he was cheated of the Nobel Prize by a rival. But now Birkeland's ideas are considered to have been prophetic, and they have furthered our understanding not only of the Northern Lights but also of electromagnetism, comets, and the sun.

Exhaustively researched and thrillingly told, the previously unknown story of Kristian Birkeland is an enthralling---and enlightening---saga.

From Chapter 1
Odin's Messengers

14 October 1899
Finnmark, Northern Norway, within the Arctic Circle


It is true of the northern lights, as of many other things of which we have no sure knowledge, that thoughtful men will form opinions and conjectures about it and will make such guesses as seem reasonable. But these northern lights have this peculiar nature, that the darker the night is, the brighter they seem, and they always appear at night but never by day, and rarely by moonlight. They resemble a vast flame of fire viewed from a great distance. It also looks as if sharp points were shot from this flame up into the sky, they are of uneven height and in constant motion, now one, now another darting highest; and the light appears to blaze like a living flame . . .
--Kongespeilet (The King's Mirror), c. 1220-30, Norse epic

It was ten in the morning and -25° Celsius when the group left the small mining town of Kaafjord for the summit of Haldde Mountain, Haldde being a ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating picture of a scientist whose distinguished career deserves to be better known.

Publishers Weekly
Crackling with Arctic adventure, this biography of the brilliant Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland (1873-1917) is set in the early 20th century and cast against the driving spirits of the Edwardian Age ..... a bittersweet story capably told by British TV journalist and BBC producer Jago.

Booklist - Donna Seaman
Jago's lucid and captivating blend of biography, physics, and cultural history adds a vital chapter to the annals of science and finally gives Birkeland his due.

Reader Reviews

Linda

A must read
One of the most interesting and amazing stories I have ever read. Well written. Reads like a novel with in depth history of Birklands quest to discover the technology used in many scientific applications utilized today. A man worthy of our ...   Read More

Velma

Norwegian Adventure
Many people will pass this book by thinking that it's another dull scientific tale. THAT IS THEIR LOSS. This well-written book tells the history of the Norwegian scientist who discovered the secrets behind the Northern Lights(aurora borealis) in a ...   Read More

Cynthia

Fascinating novel
This was a very good book. You learn a lot about Birkeland and how hard he worked to achieve his goals. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy science novels and who love to learn about the fascinating Aurora Borealis.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Northern Lights, try these:

  • The Great Influenza jacket

    The Great Influenza

    by John M. Barry

    Published 2005

    About this book

    An epic history of the deadliest plague in human history - the great flu epidemic of 1918, which killed seven times as many people as died in the First World War.

  • Easter Island jacket

    Easter Island

    by Jennifer Vanderbes

    Published 2004

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Join two intrepid young women as they delve into the centuries-old mysteries of Easter Island. Slowly unearthing the island's haunting past, they are forced to confront turbulent discoveries about themselves and the people they love, changing their lives forever.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Black Cathedral
    The Black Cathedral
    by Marcial Gala
    Marcial Gala's The Black Cathedral, translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner, is narrated through...
  • Book Jacket: When We Were Vikings
    When We Were Vikings
    by Andrew David MacDonald
    In When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald, readers are first introduced to Zelda on her ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Build a Heart
    How to Build a Heart
    by Maria Padian
    Maria Padian is well-known for her motif of exploring teen reactions to social issues. Her novel ...
  • Book Jacket: Follow Me to Ground
    Follow Me to Ground
    by Sue Rainsford
    Ada and her father are human-like beings who age slowly and possess the power to heal all illness. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Red Letter Days
    by Sarah-Jane Stratford

    A striking novel about two daring women who escape McCarthy-era Hollywood for London.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Girl in White Gloves
    by Kerri Maher

    A fascinating and deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Remembrance
by Rita Woods

A breakout debut with modern resonance, perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad and Orphan Train.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Lost Family

The Lost Family
by Libby Copeland

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A F I Need I A F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.