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Chasing Venus

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The fascinating story of the world's first international scientific collaboration.

About the Author

Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art and is the author of The Brother Gardeners (longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008 and winner of the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award), The Founding Gardeners and the co-author (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden- Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and many others. She lives in London.


During Venus's transit, observers can see the planet as a small black dot against the face of the sun. The transit is a rare event: while the last one occurred in June 2004 and the next will occur in June of this year, Venus will not appear again between Earth and the Sun until December 2117. Like Mark Anderson's The Day the World Discovered the Sun (reviewed above), Wulf's (Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation) book is concerned with Venus's 1761 and 1769 transits, when the international science community dispatched a remarkable set of expeditions to remote parts of the world to observe and measure the planet's passages across the sun. Their primary objective was to use newly acquired observational data to improve knowledge of the distance between Earth and the Sun and the solar system's dimensions. Many of the traveling scientists underwent great travails, and several died. VERDICT Wulf well describes the scientific problems and physical trials these astronomers had to solve and endure. Recommended for all readers interested in the history of science.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"Andrea Wulf's story of the chase is an enthralling, nail-biting thriller and will undoubtedly prove one of the non-fiction books of the year. Even if you fail to see the Transit, don't miss this wonderful book" -- John Harding * Daily Mail * "A fine example of scientific storytelling about astronomers of the Enlightenment observing the transit of Venus ... narrated with elegant expertise." -- Iain Finlayson * The Times * "Historian Andrea Wulf's Chasing Venus is beautifully paced, alternating between expe-ditions, with lush descriptions of the often arduous journeys involved." * Nature * "[a] truly excellent book...Andrea Wulf tell[s] the rip-roaring tales of numerous expeditions that set off around the globe to observe the Venusian transit of 1761...[She] communicate[s] the verve and energy - not to mention the perilous nature - of the expeditions." -- Marcus Chown * New Scientist * "It charts the story of a truly international effort; to not only observe the transit ... but to present the real quest that was to finally determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun ... [an] outstanding book! It's the book of the year so far - do not miss it!" * Astronomy Now *

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