An outstanding life of an impressive scientist.



A fine biography of perhaps the greatest astronomer of the past century that no one has heard of.

Journalist Moore’s subject is Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979), the eldest of three in a middle-class British family and clearly a prodigy, fascinated by natural history and science. Her father, who encouraged her pursuits, died when she was young, leaving the family short of money and with a mother of traditional, conservative views. As the author writes, she believed that “boys were to be educated, girls refined.” Despite favoring her son, she did not discourage Cecilia, who was lucky to encounter teachers who recognized her talents. Winning a scholarship, she studied physics at Cambridge until, inspired by a talk from the renowned Arthur Eddington, she changed to astronomy. She earned no degree because Cambridge did not give women degrees until 1948. Her teachers admitted that she had no future as an astronomer in Britain, so she went to Harvard to work under the charismatic Harlow Shapley, who was known for hiring women. Assigned to analyze the massive collection of photographic plates in observatory archives, Payne-Gaposchkin determined that helium was thousands of times more abundant and hydrogen millions of times more abundant in stars than on Earth. The discovery, presented in her 1925 doctoral thesis, was greeted skeptically but soon found to be correct. One scientist called it "the most brilliant thesis ever written in astronomy." Although Payne-Gaposchkin enjoyed an international reputation by the 1930s, Harvard’s catalog did not list her extremely popular classes until 1945. Appointed the first woman full professor in its faculty of arts and sciences in 1956, she became chair of the department of astronomy and died with many honors. Readers will gnash their teeth as Moore recounts the discrimination she endured. This annoyed Payne-Gaposchkin, but astronomy was her obsession, so she rarely made a fuss, and male astronomers, once they realized her brilliance, mostly treated her well.

An outstanding life of an impressive scientist.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-23737-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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

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