MAN AND THE STARS by Hanbury Brown


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This attractively designed book--illustrated with galactic photos as well as medieval maps--covers a surprising amount of ground. The first half, possibly reflecting the author's practical bent (he is an electrical engineer and inventor of a major astronomical instrument) relates the study of stars to the making of calendars, maps, clocks, and navigational instruments. Brown is excellent at guiding the reader through the complexities of sidereal time vs. Mean Greenwich Time and other phenomena which complicate reckoning. (As late as the 16th century, Spain and Portugal contested rights to newly explored territories because no good measure of longitude existed.) Brown's approach throughout is historical, allowing him to consider the practical or theoretical questions raised and the means available to answer them. The second half covers the topics one expects in a general astronomy text beginning with a discussion of Newton's laws and moving on to relativity. This logically leads to a concluding chapter in which Brown not only discourses on current concepts of the universe but also on the role of science in general. Here he compares and contrasts the arts and other disciplines--considering the role of science as a complementary one, offering humankind a particular kind of perception which allows ever new mysteries to be explored. This is an excellent, smoothly written book which should especially delight the practical-minded, pointing out how the stars have been an essential guide to the business of mankind as well as a wellspring of awe and delight.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press