Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens

By Andrea Wulf

On June 6, 1761, the realm paused to monitor a momentous party: the 1st transit of Venus among the Earth and the solar in additional than a century. via that remark, astronomers might calculate the scale of the sunlight system—but provided that they can collect facts from many alternative issues of the globe, all recorded in the course of the brief interval of the transit. Overcoming amazing odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the yankee colonies manage observatories within the remotest corners of the realm, in simple terms to be thwarted via unpredictable climate and warring armies. thankfully, transits of Venus happen in pairs; 8 years later, they'd have one other chance to succeed.
Chasing Venus brings to lifestyles the personalities of the astronomers who embarked upon this complicated and crucial enterprise and paints a shiny portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the risky foreign politics that hindered them at each flip. because of those scientists, neither our perception of the universe nor the character of medical examine may ever be the same.

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Ninety one fifty four. ‘an common tremor’: Chappe 1770, p. seventy six fifty five. critical spring floods: Ibid. , p. seventy seven fifty six. Maskelyne’s look for observatory: Maskelyne to Birch, thirteen might 1761, quoted in Howse 1989, pp. 30–31 fifty seven. ‘inevitably be caused to’: Kindersley 1777, pp. 294–295 fifty eight. ‘almost forever covered’: Maskelyne to Birch, thirteen may perhaps 1761, quoted in Howse 1989, p. 31 fifty nine. Halley on St Helena: prepare dinner 1998, p. 73ff 60. ‘infested’ with clouds: Nevil Maskelyne’s Autobiographical Notes, transcribed in Howse 1989, Appendix B, p.

P. 525 ninety eight. ‘truth of those observations’: 26 January/6 February 1764, Ibid. , p. 510 ninety nine. ‘a mistake of 1 minute’: brief, Phil Trans, 1763, vol. fifty three, p. 301 a hundred. ‘uncertain and even’: Pingré, Histoire & Mémoires, 1765, p. 23; see additionally Woolf 1959, p. 147 one zero one. ‘prefer his personal observations’: Hornsby, Phil Trans, 1763, vol. fifty three, p. 492 102. Audiffredi humiliated: Pigatto 2004, p. eighty one 103. ‘astronomers’ disputes’: Audiffredi, quoted in Ibid. , p. eighty one 104. Audiffredi and parallax: Ibid. , p. eighty three one hundred and five. ‘These issues, I say’: Benjamin Wilson to Torbern Olof Bergman, 14 December 1761, Göte and Nordström 1965, vol.

185 thirteen. Wargentin advised excursion: Ibid. , p. 188; Lindroth 1967, p. 405 14. Mallet biographical info: Nordenmark 1946 15. Mallet deeply melancholic: Ibid. , p. 20 sixteen. Mallet struggled: Ibid. , p. 10 17. style for metropolitan existence: Ibid. , p. 11ff 18. ‘plagued much less by means of melancholy’: Wargentin to Strömer, 22 may perhaps 1759, Ibid. , p. 17 19. Mallet watched first transit in Uppsala: Wargentin, KVA Abhandlungen, 1761, pp. 143–151 20. have himself ‘hanged’: Mallet to Planman, nine July 1761, Nordenmark 1939, p.

25–26 fifty five. ‘so a lot advantage’: Ibid. , p. 25 fifty six. ‘easily comprehended’: Ibid. , p. 26 fifty seven. ‘lover and protector’: Ibid. fifty eight. departure from St Petersburg and following description: Ibid. , p. 26ff fifty nine. ‘mend my clocks’: Ibid. , p. 26 60. race opposed to thaw: Ibid. sixty one. ‘greatest velocity’: Ibid. , p. 25 sixty two. ‘smooth as glass’: Ibid. , p. 38 sixty three. ‘inconceivable swiftness’: Ibid. sixty four. status ‘upright’: Ibid. sixty five. sledges continuously overturned: Ibid. , p. sixty three sixty six. horse fell into river: Ibid. , p. 31 sixty seven. susceptible to be swallowed: Ibid.

Le Gentil cleansing his tools: Sawyer Hogg 1951, p. 128 39. achromatic telescope from Madras: Le Gentil (Ebeling) 1781, p. 118 forty. ‘exceeded all expectations’: Ibid, p. 117 forty-one. saw lunar eclipse: Ibid. , p. 117 forty two. ‘from ocean to ocean’: Le Gentil to Lanux, 1 October 1768, Le Gentil 1779 and 1781, vol. 2, p. 792 forty three. assembly botanist: eight August 1768, Sajnovics magazine, Littrow 1835, p. 116 forty four. brother of the Danish Royal Astronomer: 2 July 1768, Ibid. , p. 103 forty five. Peder Horrebow: 18 August 1769, Sajnovics magazine, Littrow 1835, p.

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