STARLIGHT DETECTIVES

HOW ASTRONOMERS, INVENTORS, AND ECCENTRICS DISCOVERED THE MODERN UNIVERSE

A delightful, detailed chronicle of great men (and a rare woman) whose fascination with the night sky and the technology...

Photography, not computers, ushered in modern astronomy. Here, its bumpy evolution is in the expert hands of Harvard College Observatory associate Hirshfeld (Physics/Univ. of Mass. Dartmouth; Eureka Man: The Life and Legacy of Archimedes, 2009, etc.).

In this highly illuminating history, the author “explores the decades-long bridge of innovation that transformed Victorian-era visual astronomy into the scientific discipline that is observational astrophysics.” Although revolutionary when it appeared around 1600, the telescope is simply an amazing extension of the eye, not designed to function in dim lighting or make a permanent record. The daguerreotype dazzled the world in 1839, and an early photograph of the moon, unimpressive by modern standards, created a sensation in 1851, but stars and planets remained off limits until film sensitivity vastly increased with the dry plate in the 1870s. Equally essential to astronomers was the simultaneous maturing of the spectroscope. Splitting light into innumerable hues and lines, it allowed not only the discovery that stars were similar to the sun, but also the identification of their precise chemical makeup and movements. By the 1880s, “what had been a noisome, exasperating art had become a predictable mainstream technology that would eventually recast the telescope as an adjunct of the camera” and spectroscope. Until that decade, Hirshfeld emphasizes brilliant but now-unknown amateurs (Andrew Common, William Bond, William Huggins, Isaac Roberts) who fell in love with astronomy and had no objection to the clunky new technology. Afterward, they were replaced by academically trained but equally obsessive scientists who oversaw the creation of the massive 20th-century observatories (George Ellery Hale) and revealed an unimaginably immense, expanding universe (Edwin Hubble, Harlow Shapley).

A delightful, detailed chronicle of great men (and a rare woman) whose fascination with the night sky and the technology necessary to study it led to today’s dramatic discoveries.

Pub Date: July 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934137-78-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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