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Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens

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The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor—the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.    On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor—the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.    On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system—but only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world, only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies. Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs: eight years later, the scientists would have another opportunity to succeed.    Chasing Venus brings to life the personalities of the eighteenth-century astronomers who embarked upon this complex and essential scientific venture, painting a vivid portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the volatile international politics that hindered them at every turn. In the end, what they accomplished would change our conception of the universe and would forever alter the nature of scientific research.


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The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor—the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.    On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than The author of the highly acclaimed Founding Gardeners now gives us an enlightening chronicle of the first truly international scientific endeavor—the eighteenth-century quest to observe the transit of Venus and measure the solar system.    On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system—but only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world, only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies. Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs: eight years later, the scientists would have another opportunity to succeed.    Chasing Venus brings to life the personalities of the eighteenth-century astronomers who embarked upon this complex and essential scientific venture, painting a vivid portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the volatile international politics that hindered them at every turn. In the end, what they accomplished would change our conception of the universe and would forever alter the nature of scientific research.

30 review for Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    A present! Thank you very much, Bettie! And it was a lovely read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Yet again, I turn to my first love--astronomy. And when it's married with history...swoon. I love astronomical history. It's just fun. And this book possibly earned an extra star simply by being about something ridiculously cool. Points for when I explained the concept to Gwen she was horribly upset that she didn't get to see it when it happened in 2012. Basically, the book tells the story of all the astronomers that went roving around the world to measure the transit of Venus across the face of t Yet again, I turn to my first love--astronomy. And when it's married with history...swoon. I love astronomical history. It's just fun. And this book possibly earned an extra star simply by being about something ridiculously cool. Points for when I explained the concept to Gwen she was horribly upset that she didn't get to see it when it happened in 2012. Basically, the book tells the story of all the astronomers that went roving around the world to measure the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. By doing so at different latitudes and longitudes, they figured out how far everything was from each other. Thankfully, Wulf kept the math to the minimum. She explained it basically by if you hold your thumb out and look with one eye and then look at the thumb with the other eye, by measuring the difference and knowing where your eye balls are (you know that right?) you could figure out how far your thumb was. I'm not sure how it works, as my understanding of math is rather...well...bad. A lot of astronomers go to weird places to watch Venus and try to figure out how far everything is in the solar system. It also was the start of international scientific cooperation--which is awesome sauce. At times it was slow..."OMIGOD GET TO MANILA ALREADY"...but most of the time it's really interesting thinking of these super-nerdy astronomers going to Siberia by sledge or Tahiti to watch an event lasting 6 hours. I think I would have liked this better if I had read it, but I'm sure I'll like the sock that I made while listening to it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    I might be being slightly more generous at the moment but I don’t care. It was so good.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bo Gordy-Stith

    Wonderful companion that greatly expands the wonderful story I first stumbled across in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything Wonderful companion that greatly expands the wonderful story I first stumbled across in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniela Valentina

    excelent!!!!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    Too short! Well, I understand that a chronicle is a chronicle and a good essayist is not going to novelize the facts, but I wish I could read more about these scientists who fought against the elements to measure the universe. For the first time in history the scientific community connected all over the world, oblivious of wars and grudges between nations. They managed to build up a competition made of the finest instruments and calculations instead of firearms and claiming of distant lands. They Too short! Well, I understand that a chronicle is a chronicle and a good essayist is not going to novelize the facts, but I wish I could read more about these scientists who fought against the elements to measure the universe. For the first time in history the scientific community connected all over the world, oblivious of wars and grudges between nations. They managed to build up a competition made of the finest instruments and calculations instead of firearms and claiming of distant lands. They persuaded kings and queens to open their wallets and sponsor expeditions all over the world, adding anthropologists, botanists, geologists etc to the leading astronomers. Even when they failed to see Venus they come home with new knowledge to share with the world. They fell into icing waters and slept with Polynesian women, they met pirates and were accused of doing bad magic, few of them even died in pursuing the passage of Venus. But they never gave up. Reading about them it's been a travel for me as well, a very good one. After this, Andea Wulf is definitely one of my favourite author.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shane Evans

    A few years ago I read a book about the universe where the authors showed themselves watching the transit of venus through some fairly simple telescopes. They mentioned that the event was fairly rare, only twice per century. I didn't realize and they didn't explain what the big deal was all about. It turns out that for astronomers the Transit of Venus is a really big historical deal. About 300 years ago Edmund Halley (yes, the comet guy) realized that by measuring the time it took Venus to pass A few years ago I read a book about the universe where the authors showed themselves watching the transit of venus through some fairly simple telescopes. They mentioned that the event was fairly rare, only twice per century. I didn't realize and they didn't explain what the big deal was all about. It turns out that for astronomers the Transit of Venus is a really big historical deal. About 300 years ago Edmund Halley (yes, the comet guy) realized that by measuring the time it took Venus to pass in front of the Sun from distant spots in the northern and southern hemispheres we could calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun and to top it all off we could also calculate all the distances from the Sun all the other planets in the solar system (thanks to Kepler). The book is the story of how the newly international community of scientists cooperated and competed to measure the transit in 1761 and again in 1769. Well told, the book is loaded with stories of compelling characters, harrowing journeys, and visionary scientists and royals racing to measure the transit. The only complaint I had was the author doesn't explain the math. However, she does refer to some websites that take you through the calculations. Overall the book is fantastic! I highly recommend it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Kieffer

    One of the most delightful historical accounts I have read. The author describes herself a historical designer. In this desription she dose not disappoint. The book recounts the 18th century race, by the scientific societies of the most powerful nations, to observe the transit of Venus between the earth and the sun, allowing them to calculate the dimension of the solar system. This endeavor would change the frontier of science forever. The story spans more than 10 years and illuminates what an i One of the most delightful historical accounts I have read. The author describes herself a historical designer. In this desription she dose not disappoint. The book recounts the 18th century race, by the scientific societies of the most powerful nations, to observe the transit of Venus between the earth and the sun, allowing them to calculate the dimension of the solar system. This endeavor would change the frontier of science forever. The story spans more than 10 years and illuminates what an intense and life threatening undertaking it was for those involved. Using journals to illustrate the struggles of the brave astronomers, the audience is invited into the 18th century race for science. The book also contains a host of beautiful illustrations and photographs for the maps, people and interments used for these expeditions.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    I didn't give this book enough time, thus only 3 stars. It is detailed...very...and told in an engaging way. Can't believe the scientists in this...that they figured out as much as they did wit the tools they had and then proceeded to the farthest points of the earth to prove themselves right. I've read The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Wulf, and the woman can write. Give this one a go if you are interested in measuring the heavens. I didn't give this book enough time, thus only 3 stars. It is detailed...very...and told in an engaging way. Can't believe the scientists in this...that they figured out as much as they did wit the tools they had and then proceeded to the farthest points of the earth to prove themselves right. I've read The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Wulf, and the woman can write. Give this one a go if you are interested in measuring the heavens.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This is the third book I’ve read by Andrea Wulf and it did not disappoint. She has a magical way of making you feel as passionate about the sciences as the scientists she writes about. She explains the science well, but not so in depth that your head starts spinning. She spins the historical events into a captivating story (and includes some dry humor about our petty ancestors). The historical illustrations make the book complete.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    This is a fascinating book about the events that allowed 18th century scientists to determine the distance from the earth to the sun with less than 1% error (in the estimate by the Royal Society of Britain). Edmond Halley (of the comet fame) realized that when Venus appears to cross the sun (about every 100 years), measurements taken from different points on Earth would allow a calculation of the distance to the sun. Although he knew he wouldn't live to see it, he wrote extensively about it, enco This is a fascinating book about the events that allowed 18th century scientists to determine the distance from the earth to the sun with less than 1% error (in the estimate by the Royal Society of Britain). Edmond Halley (of the comet fame) realized that when Venus appears to cross the sun (about every 100 years), measurements taken from different points on Earth would allow a calculation of the distance to the sun. Although he knew he wouldn't live to see it, he wrote extensively about it, encouraging the scientific communities in all countries to participate in 1761 and again in 1769 (transits of Venus occur in pairs, about eight years apart). This book tells the story of the massive efforts to field expeditions to the far corners of the earth, often into unknown or uncharted lands and seas, to find the optimal positions for observing the six hour transit of Venus. There was nationalistic grandstanding as countries vied to participate, the scientists shamelessly citing patriotic pride to convince politicians and monarchs to fund the expeditions. While there was some professional rivalry, scientists from different countries cooperated amazingly well, even when their respective countries were on opposite sides of the Seven Years War. The trials and tribulations of the astronomers were immense; four of them died on the mission. Others were foiled by bad weather, after traveling for a year or more and waiting months at their destination. In fact, it seems like perversity struck uniformly: Those who suffered the most and doubted that the weather would clear, got the best readings, while the most reliable locations were clouded in. At the end, there were enough observations from 1769 to make reasonable estimates of the distance to the sun. Thanks to Kepler in the previous century, they knew the relative distances from the sun for each planet, but not the actual distances. An accurate 'yardstick' of the earth's distance gave them what they needed to calculate the size of the Solar System (at least out to Saturn, which was as far as they knew at the time). James Cook's first voyage to the South Seas occurred because of Britain's desire to send an astronomer to recently-discovered Tahiti. Cook's expedition included other scientists, most notably botanist Joseph Banks, who collected thousands of plants from Australia and other Pacific locations. In fact, the 'transit of Venus' expeditions gave rise to the concept of the scientific expedition, which didn't exist up to that time. Afterwards, almost all major explorations included scientists. The last transit of Venus was in 2012. We won't see another in our lifetimes. It was great to read about an astronomical event that contributed so much to our understanding of the Solar System, and promoted scientific explorations for centuries to come.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Thielen

    Enjoyable account of the scientists from Europe and young America, who traveled to spots around the globe in both 1761 and 1769, to observe the transit of Venus. The transit, itself, was a scientific milestone, but the mathematical calculations were also uniquely important: they were needed to measure the distance of the Earth from the sun, and therefore gain a firmer sense of the size of the universe. The book is not only a reminder of how challenging it was to engage in scientific work in that Enjoyable account of the scientists from Europe and young America, who traveled to spots around the globe in both 1761 and 1769, to observe the transit of Venus. The transit, itself, was a scientific milestone, but the mathematical calculations were also uniquely important: they were needed to measure the distance of the Earth from the sun, and therefore gain a firmer sense of the size of the universe. The book is not only a reminder of how challenging it was to engage in scientific work in that century, but also makes clear how travel, itself, was fraught with difficulty: scientists going to the frozen north, the hot and humid south and across turbulent oceans put their lives at serious risk before they ever unpacked a telescope. And, of course, global politics left a mark on the proceedings. Intransigent Spain forbade British travel to the west coast of North America, as they still owned that possession and apparent didn’t trust any Englishman to be interested in science, alone. (They did approve a Frenchman’s travels there.) And the lavish work done (and funded by) the Russian government was undertaken primarily because Catherine the Great was most anxious to be seen as enlightened by the rest of the world. Then, as now, a lot of history depends on imperial egos. As Wulf explains, this was the first major global scientific effort and one that opened up the scientific world to all those that would come thereafter. A good read for those interested in astronomy and the history of science.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Janell

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Inpired by a challenge Edmund Halley, of comet fame, had set a few decades earlier, the astronomers of the world cooperate on a series of adventures to reach far-flung places around the world to measure the transit of Venus across the Sun. They have two chances, in 1761 and 1769, to take accurate measurements (no easy task at that time) -- then it will be 115 years before this happens again. From their data, they hope to be able to calculate for the first time the I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Inpired by a challenge Edmund Halley, of comet fame, had set a few decades earlier, the astronomers of the world cooperate on a series of adventures to reach far-flung places around the world to measure the transit of Venus across the Sun. They have two chances, in 1761 and 1769, to take accurate measurements (no easy task at that time) -- then it will be 115 years before this happens again. From their data, they hope to be able to calculate for the first time the distance to the sun. And voila - the scientific expedition is born! Andrea Wulf spins a fascinating tale as she follows an unlikely collection of intrepid adventurers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, America and other countries as they strive to reach remote outposts in Siberia, South Africa, Tahiti, Lapland, and more -- despite war, weather, and disease -- to be in time for the transits. I enjoyed learning about new scientists, and also finding familiar names in unexpected places. I'm also very glad that my husband and I showed the 2012 transit of Venus to our son's boy scout troop... I just wish I'd read this beforehand so I could truly appreciate what we were seeing.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bill Leach

    A number of major expeditions were made in 1761 and 1769 to set up observatories from which attempts were made to time the transit of Venus across the sun. The objective was to calculate the distance of the sun from the earth - the definition of the Astronomical Unit (AU). As the transits were visible from only certain points on earth, major expeditions were required to get the astronomers and their tools to these points. Wulf describes the astronomers and the many logistical problems they encoun A number of major expeditions were made in 1761 and 1769 to set up observatories from which attempts were made to time the transit of Venus across the sun. The objective was to calculate the distance of the sun from the earth - the definition of the Astronomical Unit (AU). As the transits were visible from only certain points on earth, major expeditions were required to get the astronomers and their tools to these points. Wulf describes the astronomers and the many logistical problems they encountered. Each venture was a separate story, with many ups and downs. The state of measurement at the time is interesting as even units of measure were not consistent. While some parties made time measurements with respect to Greenwich, others used Paris. Comparison of results was complicated by the fact that the longitude or time difference between Greenwich and Paris was not accurately known. Various results were published, but some were able to determine the distance within two percent.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicodemus Boffin

    [This is a review of the audiobook.] A book hoping to appeal to the reading audience of Dava Sobel's "Longitude," Andrea Wulf's "Chasing Venus" is about the 18th century's European trans-national scientific community's attempts to record the paired transits of Venus across the sun. Although a bit too thin a reed to hang a book this size- the narrative was brisk (only occasionally superfluous,) and focused. Nonetheless, as the story traverses across Europe, the listener can easily be forgiven if [This is a review of the audiobook.] A book hoping to appeal to the reading audience of Dava Sobel's "Longitude," Andrea Wulf's "Chasing Venus" is about the 18th century's European trans-national scientific community's attempts to record the paired transits of Venus across the sun. Although a bit too thin a reed to hang a book this size- the narrative was brisk (only occasionally superfluous,) and focused. Nonetheless, as the story traverses across Europe, the listener can easily be forgiven if her/her attention wanders as the litany of astronomers' names, careers and travails traverses across Wulf's story. The narrator, the late Robin Sachs, gives the manuscript an effective dramatic heft and keeps the listener engaged even when the story's inherent slightness might have cause a reader of the printed page to put the book down. A pleasant fillip, "Chasing Venus" doesn't match Sobel's work but is certainly worth listening to while commuting to work or walking the dog. 3 stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Drew D Peabody

    Andrea Wulf is becoming one of my favorite non fiction writers Wulf's forte is the natural world. Her book about Alexander von Humboldt, The Invention of Nature, brought her to my attention. In a sense, the story of Chasing Venus, a world wide effort to observe Venus crossing the sun in 1761 and 1769, set the stage for von Humboldt's numerous globe-crossing scientific expeditions and international scientific cooperation which enabled his achievements.The writing is excellent which allowed my en Andrea Wulf is becoming one of my favorite non fiction writers Wulf's forte is the natural world. Her book about Alexander von Humboldt, The Invention of Nature, brought her to my attention. In a sense, the story of Chasing Venus, a world wide effort to observe Venus crossing the sun in 1761 and 1769, set the stage for von Humboldt's numerous globe-crossing scientific expeditions and international scientific cooperation which enabled his achievements.The writing is excellent which allowed my enjoyment of this book despite my lack of scientific understanding. The numerous stories of the intrepid astronomers crossing continents in the name of science is a gripping one and should find a place on anyone's nonfiction reading list

  17. 4 out of 5

    Janke

    I try not to give a 5-star rating to too many books, but I just cannot think of any shortcomings this book has for me. It's a detailed account of all the expeditions set out to observe the Venus transits in 1761 and 1769, used to calculate the size of the Solar System. It's astronomy mixed with science history mixed with personal accounts of some of the most brave scientists of their time. The pacing was perfect for me, with enough details to make it an interesting read but never dragging. The h I try not to give a 5-star rating to too many books, but I just cannot think of any shortcomings this book has for me. It's a detailed account of all the expeditions set out to observe the Venus transits in 1761 and 1769, used to calculate the size of the Solar System. It's astronomy mixed with science history mixed with personal accounts of some of the most brave scientists of their time. The pacing was perfect for me, with enough details to make it an interesting read but never dragging. The humour that Andrea Wulf added here and there made for a good laugh as well. Would highly recommend!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arvind Balasundaram

    An engrossing account of how the world came together in the name of science 250 years ago. Responding to a call by astronomer Edmond Halley, to measure two rare occurrences of Venus’ transit across the sun, countries gave up political differences amidst a climate of wars and conflict, to cooperate and collaborate. This period led to a more precise estimation of the solar parallax, as well as a very accurate prediction of the distance between the earth and the sun, as Halley had noted. More broad An engrossing account of how the world came together in the name of science 250 years ago. Responding to a call by astronomer Edmond Halley, to measure two rare occurrences of Venus’ transit across the sun, countries gave up political differences amidst a climate of wars and conflict, to cooperate and collaborate. This period led to a more precise estimation of the solar parallax, as well as a very accurate prediction of the distance between the earth and the sun, as Halley had noted. More broadly, it set a precedent for countries to always collaborate to further scientific understanding, a gift that keeps on giving through the present day.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christopher White

    How far away is the sun? In the 1700s, we had no idea. But we could find out by sending astronomers to remote corners of the world to simultaneously measure Venus as it crossed in front of the sun. We just need international cooperation (during the Seven Years War!), good weather (impossible to predict), lots of government money (despite fighting a war), keen navigation (without knowing how to determine longitude at sea), and expensive, delicate instruments (transported over rough seas and unimp How far away is the sun? In the 1700s, we had no idea. But we could find out by sending astronomers to remote corners of the world to simultaneously measure Venus as it crossed in front of the sun. We just need international cooperation (during the Seven Years War!), good weather (impossible to predict), lots of government money (despite fighting a war), keen navigation (without knowing how to determine longitude at sea), and expensive, delicate instruments (transported over rough seas and unimproved roads by horse cart). An adventure book for astronomy and history fans. 5 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alice Lemon

    It's hard to say why I wasn't more impressed with this book than I was. Part of it may simply be that astronomy and Enlightenment-era scientists interest me rather less than they used to. I suspect it's also relevant, though, that the book just doesn't really discuss that much science. There is a lot of focus--and it is important--on the efforts astronomers made to get into position to observe the transits, but a lot less than I would have liked to see on how the scale of the solar system was ac It's hard to say why I wasn't more impressed with this book than I was. Part of it may simply be that astronomy and Enlightenment-era scientists interest me rather less than they used to. I suspect it's also relevant, though, that the book just doesn't really discuss that much science. There is a lot of focus--and it is important--on the efforts astronomers made to get into position to observe the transits, but a lot less than I would have liked to see on how the scale of the solar system was actually calculated from the data they collected.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert Swanson

    The transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769 was the beginning of international scientific cooperation on projects. The transit itself was a project of mind-boggling difficulty. Months spent traveling to far-off colonies for the observations, typhoid, dysentery... Some astronomers would die during the transit travels. The narrator has a constant-tone drone that lends a certain boredom-inducing hypnotics to the materials. But, it was an enjoyable listen. And, coupled with the internet and Wikipedia, the s The transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769 was the beginning of international scientific cooperation on projects. The transit itself was a project of mind-boggling difficulty. Months spent traveling to far-off colonies for the observations, typhoid, dysentery... Some astronomers would die during the transit travels. The narrator has a constant-tone drone that lends a certain boredom-inducing hypnotics to the materials. But, it was an enjoyable listen. And, coupled with the internet and Wikipedia, the seed for far-flung tangential information treks.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Balloon Bruce

    It is so easy to travel and communicate today. The dedication and daring of these astronomers of 200+ years ago is admirable. The book drags, especially the second part. In all of the stories she tells, the scientists faced logistical, political, and financial obstacles. After a while, the challenges sort of blended together. I would have appreciated a modern scientific explanation of the difficulties in observing the transit.

  23. 4 out of 5

    MartianVortex

    A joy to read! This book is a page turner. The author writes in a nice style, transforming what could have been a dry read into a lively description of an very interesting episode in the history of science. "Chasing Venus" details the international effort and gives an historical account of the brave men who risked their lives and traveled to the four corners of the world to observe the Transit of Venus. Highly recommended for those who appreciate reading about the history of science. A joy to read! This book is a page turner. The author writes in a nice style, transforming what could have been a dry read into a lively description of an very interesting episode in the history of science. "Chasing Venus" details the international effort and gives an historical account of the brave men who risked their lives and traveled to the four corners of the world to observe the Transit of Venus. Highly recommended for those who appreciate reading about the history of science.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Quite interesting account of how a larger part of the populous became interested in science in 1761 with the chance to use the transit of Venus to determine the size of the solar system. I was disappointed, however, that the book did not give more detail on the technical aspects of the undertaking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    A

    Astronomers in the 16th century, with determination to view the transit of Venus went to extraordinary means to be in "the right place at the right time." That they sought to travel to the far ends of the earth to accomplish their goal says something about the impact that the heavens have upon us. Astronomers in the 16th century, with determination to view the transit of Venus went to extraordinary means to be in "the right place at the right time." That they sought to travel to the far ends of the earth to accomplish their goal says something about the impact that the heavens have upon us.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Daly-Boas

    I thought this was one of the best non-fiction science stories I've ever read. I was captivated by the story of astronomers traveling the globe to catch the transit of Venus. I've never gasped because a cloud might obscure a telescope! I thought this was one of the best non-fiction science stories I've ever read. I was captivated by the story of astronomers traveling the globe to catch the transit of Venus. I've never gasped because a cloud might obscure a telescope!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Kaelin

    Very good in many ways. It felt much less polished than her other book, the Invention of Nature. I very much love the topic and the authored treated it with respect, but it could have been more engaging.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Reggie

    Very enjoyable recounting of an extraordinary effort to track the transit of Venus and calculate Earth's distance to the sun. Kudos to the author for relating the experience of far-flung adventurers in such an engaging way. Very enjoyable recounting of an extraordinary effort to track the transit of Venus and calculate Earth's distance to the sun. Kudos to the author for relating the experience of far-flung adventurers in such an engaging way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rick Edwards

    This is a very readable book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Once again, Wulf selects a story that sweeps a vast geography and shows us the intricate, personal journies that shape our scientific community today.

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