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The Day the World Discovered the Sun: An Extraordinary Story of Scientific Adventure and the Race to Track the Transit of Venus

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  154 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
On June 3, 1769, the planet Venus briefly passed across the face of the sun in a cosmic alignment that occurs twice per century. Anticipation of the rare celestial event sparked a worldwide competition among aspiring global superpowers, each sending their own scientific expeditions to far-flung destinations to time the planet’s trek. These pioneers used the “Venus Transit” ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Da Capo Press
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Laurie Murphy
Feb 26, 2014 Laurie Murphy rated it it was amazing
I don't give 5-star reviews lightly but this book made the cut. Drawing heavily on the diaries and available documents of the scientists, the book recounts their adventures as they traveled to remote parts of the globe to chart the two transits of Venus across the sun that occurred in the 1700s. The purpose was to discover the dimensions of the solar system by determining the distance from the Earth to the Sun and, as a by-product, contribute to the methodology of accurately determining longitud ...more
May 19, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a useful addition to the wealth of stories out there that are related to the effort to graph the two transits of Venus in the 1860s. The first voyage of Captain Cook with Joseph Banks is well known. This book also follows an expedition that ended up in Baja California and another that went to Lapland. Inclement weather, rough travel conditions, politics, epidemics, fractious native peoples, and finally, rocky data analysis dogged the project, which was one of the first global "big scienc ...more
Julian Simioni
Jan 30, 2013 Julian Simioni rated it really liked it
It took me a long time to get through this book. I actually read through half way almost a year ago, tried to pick up where I left off, and had to restart from the beginning. Partially, it's because of the way this book is structured: it tracks multiple simultaneous happenings at any one time, and so it's hard to keep track of what is happening where relative to anything else. And more, the writing style, while enjoyable and sometimes wonderful, is hard to read through without focus, making this ...more
John C.
Jul 21, 2012 John C. rated it really liked it
The Day the World Discovered the Sun © 2012
By Mark Anderson (Non-Fiction) – Non-Fiction – Venus Transit expeditions 1769

I’m not sure the title does this literature justice. It comes off sounding like a cheap Sci-Fi juvenile literature rag. The truth is this is anything but.
Mid eighteenth century, June 3rd, 1769 to be exact, a phenomenon was predicted to occur whereas the planet Venus would navigate across our sun in its entirety. On this occasion Venus would do so while also allowing a full obs
Nov 27, 2012 Chad rated it really liked it
For some reason I love learning about the history of scientific advancement. This book reads like an adventure novel. If anything, in fact, its focus on the hardships of the requisite travel that each team undertook in preparation for the observations was, to me at least, a distraction, albeit a pleasant one, from the more pressing questions of scientific progress undertaken by this worldwide collaboration.

The idea, presented by Edmund Halley, of Halley's Comet fame, was nothing short of ingenio
Apr 13, 2013 Ritchie rated it liked it
Shelves: history, astronomy
The Day the World Discovered the Sun covers the historical adventures involved in, and the build-up surrounding, the 1761 and 1769 transits of Venus.

It was posited by Edmund Halley that by using these transits it would be possible to calculate the distance between the Earth and Sun to a 98% certainty and so it proved, unfortunately Halley died before the transit occured.

The book details, in addition to the myriad far-flung voyages to record the transits (Vienna, St. Petersburg, Mexico, Baja Cal
Feb 23, 2012 Tara rated it it was amazing
This book details the race to the ends of the earth to catch a glimpse of the Venus transit, which occurs only twice every 150 years. It was posited by Edmund Halley that by using this transit it would be possible to calculate the distance between the Earth and Sun to a 98% certainty AND HE WAS RIGHT! Be sure to read this book if you love adventure, science and astronomy! THE DAY THE WORLD DISCOVERED THE SUN has it all in one amazing read!
Mar 21, 2013 Jenny rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful story of adventure, political intrigue and more. I never realized how important the Transit of Venus was in centuries past, but the book makes me want to learn more. And I'm sorry that I didn't know about this in 2012 when the last transite of Venue occurred in this century. But it makes me want to find out about other wonders of the heavens that I need to be aware of.
Adam Tierney-eliot
May 27, 2013 Adam Tierney-eliot rated it liked it
It was OK. The writing was pretty good if a tad overwrought at times. The story is a compelling one.

The real problem, though, is that it exists in a competitive arena of popular scientific/adventure history. Roughly 1/3 of this book is about James Cook, Joseph Banks et. al. They are well documented elsewhere.
John B.
Dec 15, 2012 John B. rated it really liked it
If you have ever had the adventure of going out into the field to make scientific or engineering measurements you will find this book fascinating. Measuring the transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769 was a challenging task and was on the cutting edge of science. The author does a great job of presenting the adventure, the history, and the science. The book has an excellent notes section. The editing was rough in a few spots, particularly in some of the earlier chapters, but these glitches can be over ...more
Jeni Enjaian
Jan 10, 2015 Jeni Enjaian rated it did not like it
I found the title intriguing but from the moment I opened the book and read the first few pages I knew that this book would not live up to the "hype" of the title. In other words, it's a rather horrible book. (That, of course, is my personal opinion.) In no particular order, here are the problems I have with this book. One, the language is far too fancy. It's as if Anderson had a thesaurus (virtual or hard copy) open next to him while writing the book because he felt compelled to never use the s ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Brad rated it really liked it
In the early 18th century astronomer Edmond Halley determined that the Transit of Venus represented the best opportunity to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun... and from there the size of the entire known solar system.

There was just one problem. Venus crosses the Sun (as seen from the Earth) only twice every 125 years or so. Halley made his proposal in 1716, but the next Transit wouldn't be until 1761.

The Day the World Discovered the Sun traces the adventures of several teams of a
Mar 03, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
In June 3, 1769, it was predicted that the planet Venus would transit across the face of the sun. This rare event would provide a chance to measure the physical dimensions of the solar system. It would also offer an opportunity for improving methods of measuring longitude at sea and was thus of great military significance. However, the most accurate results could only be obtained if data were collected from a variety of locations around the globe. Hence, a number of expeditions were mounted to p ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Trenchologist rated it really liked it
This gives you the sense of just how small and unlearned our world was, and not too long ago, and yet how the minds who lived in that time understood, grappled with, and reached the very stars. Players from the above mentioned title take center-and-side stage in this, and it was a valuable--and neato--overlaying of vantages, research and information to have read both. There are multiple narratives in this book but it never loses the main or partial plot; everyone is given a full thru, then beyon ...more
May 20, 2014 Elisif rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book although it got slow in a few places. The author did a pretty good job of bringing these historical figures to life, and describing the conditions on the transit of Venus expeditions, and the politics involved. The details about the observations themselves were interesting too--I could have used a little more scientific explanation, but then again there is a whole technical appendix I'm not going to read. Fascinating stuff in the appendix about how the calculations wer ...more
Apr 09, 2013 A rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this book. It was fascinating to see the way the world came together to solve the mystery of the astronomical unit. I was
interested in this book before the last Venus transit. After witnessing this amazing phenomenon myself, I was even more interested in the history of its discovery. This book chronicled the multiple ventures that attempted to solve the actual length of an astronomical unit as predicted by the great astronomer Halley. There's even an optional c
Michael Harris
Aug 06, 2012 Michael Harris rated it really liked it
A gift from my daughter, thanks Deb! A wonderful book about the amazing work of astronomers, mathematicians, scientists and Lt. James Cook in tracking and measuring the Venus Transit across the Sun to determine the dimensions of the Universe. Along the way they worked on and worked out the problem of calculating Longitude at Sea. Given that this was the late 1700's makes it even more amazing. Anderson made the book factual and engaging as he switched between the various teems tracking the Transi ...more
Vince Ciaramella
Feb 15, 2013 Vince Ciaramella rated it it was amazing
An awesome book that spans continents and time. If you want to read about Mason/Dixon before their famous line or the hunt for longitude this book is for you. Tracking the Transit of Venus, Scientists around the globe pulled their information together in Paris to unlock mysteries that today we take for granted.
Steven Vaughan-Nichols
I wanted to like this book, but as a history of the various expeditions to track the transit of Venus in 1769 it was... OK. What bugged me the most were various small errors about naval history. Those I could pick up, but it lead me to wondering how many other mistakes there might be in the scientific history.
May 25, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
I ended up skimming parts of this book, but overall it was a good read. Lots of detailed information about the various missions sent out to observe the transit of Venus. It was such an important moment in our understanding of the universe that I would recommend learning more about it, either with this book or a documentary. Fascinating all around.
Jun 12, 2012 Bill rated it really liked it
A very informative and entertaining read that does its best to keep a potentially dry subject lively and interesting (and succeeding the vast majority of the time). I highly recommend, just keep in mind that it is one long steady trek throughout the book.
Murdock Hendrix
Jul 17, 2013 Murdock Hendrix rated it really liked it
An exceptional book about a task to capture scientific information about the transit of Venus. This book really put in context the amount of labor for those in the 1700s to view this phenomena that I took for granted. The view was breathtaking and something I will never forget. Worth the read!
Dec 12, 2012 Ralph rated it it was amazing
Very interesting world-wide science expeditions to precisely measure the transit of Venus in 1761 and 1769.
Jul 22, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
Science For The People
Featured on Science for the People show #218 on June 21, 2013, during an interview with author Mark Anderson.
Mar 08, 2014 Sam rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent read! I needed this quick break between volumes of Lincoln: The War Years by Carl Sandburg.
Al Menaster
Oct 06, 2012 Al Menaster rated it really liked it
Excellent, interesting true story of the international scientific project to measure the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1796, to determine the distance of earth from the sun.
Jun 15, 2012 Patrick rated it liked it
Shelves: unread
I really wanted to like this book. However it was as dry as the hardtack on Captain Cook's Endeavour.

The epilogue is well worth reading, however. If you read nothing else it should be the epilogue.
Feb 05, 2014 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times this book became quite tedious to read, especially the middle of the book when the world was waiting the second transit of Venus,
Tracy Thorleifson
Tracy Thorleifson rated it it was amazing
Aug 21, 2014
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