A lively, fitting tribute to “mankind’s first international ‘big science’ project.”



A scientific adventure tale in which astronomers risk their lives, traveling the high seas in winter, trekking over ice-bound Siberia and facing deadly diseases.

Anderson (“Shakespeare” by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, 2005) examines the scope of the 18th-century international project to determine the distance between the earth and the sun by measuring the transit of the planet Venus across its surface. He compares it to recent investigations like the mapping of the human genome, NASA's Apollo program and the building of the Large Hadron Collider. In 1761 and again in 1769, teams of astronomers circumnavigated the globe to make precise measurements of the transit. Although England, France, Prussia, Austria and Russia were at war, they collaborated on this major scientific venture, a once-in-a-century opportunity. In both years, Venus was observed and timed as it appeared to traverse the sun, using trigonometric calculations to triangulate the distance. Anderson writes that this was a marriage of advanced science and technology with extreme adventure, resulting in spinoffs such as the development of precision timekeepers and the reliable calculations of longitude. The achievement was commemorated by “the Apollo 15 mission…command module [which] was named Endeavour”—after Captain Cook's ship—and carried “a block of wood from the sternpost of [his] original HMS Endeavour.” In 1769, the ship carried England's crew and succeeded in its mission, despite suffering the tragic deaths of most of its scientific crew. While the trigonometric calculations were state-of-the-art, if tedious, transporting the telescopic equipment, building observatories on the spot, making the observations and braving the rigors of the journey were anything but.

A lively, fitting tribute to “mankind’s first international ‘big science’ project.”

Pub Date: June 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-306-82038-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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