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The Neptune File: A Story of Astronomical Rivalry and the Pioneers of Planet Hunting

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  114 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Now in paperback, The Neptune File is the first account of the dramatic events surrounding the discovery of the solar system's eighth planet, and the story of two men who were able to see on paper what astronomers looking through telescopes for 200 years did not.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Berkley Trade (first published October 1st 2000)
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Jun 04, 2009 Zack rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
Fans of the planet Neptune, be advised: this book's title is somewhat misleading. While a good deal of the book is taken up with the story of the discovery of the planet Neptune, there are sizable sections devoted to the discoveries of Uranus and Pluto, as well as a chapter on the late 20th century discoveries of extrasolar planets. Although I was a little miffed at first that my favourite gas giant planet is somewhat slighted, it was interesting to read about the contrast between the discoverie ...more
Oct 02, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it
This is a highly readable account of the 19th century search for Neptune, the first planet ever discovered not by observation but by mathematical deduction. Standage's writing style is engaging. He makes the science, and even the math, not only interesting but understandable.

His fascination with the history is evident on every page too. I enjoyed his profiles of some of the major players involved in the discovery and the controversy that surrounded it, especially John Couch Adams, Airy, and Le
Jul 20, 2013 Rfmorison rated it it was amazing
Good story. Clearly explained science. Thanks for lending it, James!
Jun 07, 2010 Gregory rated it liked it
The Neptune File recounts the discovery of the outer planets, Uranus and Neptune, in dramatic fashion. Standage brings the controversies surrounding the discovery of Neptune to light, bringing the characters to life, giving the reader a true sense of the personalities behind the pens and telescopes. I must say, a majority of the book was captivating and a delight to read while the last few chapters, devoted to the discovery of Pluto as well as the first exoplanets, was quite dry and lacked the d ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
After having read and enjoyed The Victorian Internet I thought I'd give The Neptune File a read. An interesting book, on an interesting subject - primarily about the people and process of using maths to predict the positioning of an unknown planet.

The end of the book wasn't so interesting, falling into the “is Pluto a planet” debate before briefly covering the newer, more technologically advanced methods of planet hunting.
Jul 08, 2013 James rated it really liked it
A very good, fast-paced and interesting book on the discovery of both Uranus and Neptune. The best part is the depth with which the various scientists in Britain, France and Germany working on these goals are portrayed.
As for the last couple of chapters, which cover the more recent (post-1980s) discovery of extrasolar planets, the book is by this point very out of date, although it was before its time in encouraging Pluto's demotion from planethood.
Bruce Reid
Jul 01, 2008 Bruce Reid rated it liked it
A rushed but engaging overview of the personal and geopolitical rivalries that fueled one of the great scientific races--the search for a new planet, not yet observed but (for the first time) predicted by the mathematical anomalies of existing orbits. One of those books whose main value is to spur you on to further reading, though I confess my interest in the topic is sufficiently low to make that unlikely.
Apparently my understanding of the controversy over Neptune's discovery was incomplete. Standage's call on Pluto saves the book from feeling too dated in the last few chapters. And really, most of the book is spent covering events that occurred over 150 years ago, so datedness isn't much of an issue.
Feb 19, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
"The story of the discovery of Neptune, the first planet to be found initially by mathematics only. John Adams and Le Verner did the work nearly simultaneously, but the Frenchman was famous and Adams was a shy grad student. In the end, Adams is recognized for the first successful attempt, but there is some grand French/Anglo wrangling involved too."
Jan 23, 2016 Pamela rated it really liked it
A great synopsis of how we learned to find planets without seeing them including great backstory of the key historical players with a little humor thrown in here and there. I found this to be an easy going read that kept my scientific mind happy as well.
Jan 31, 2017 Iamreddave rated it liked it
I have now read almost all of Standage's books. History of the world in 6 glasses and The Victorian Internet are my favorites.

Like the Turk this is a fairly flimsy tale spun out to a short book. I got up at 6 this morning to finish it which has to be a good sign.

May 13, 2013 Peter rated it really liked it
This informative book does an excellent job exploring the history of how the planet Neptune was discovered, and how explaining complicated scientific terminology in a way for my unscientific brain to understand. I look forward to re-reading it again in the future.
Aug 02, 2011 I added it
This is the second book by Tom Standage I have read...This guy can write. Having read a lot of popular astronomy books, I was expecting it to be a repeat of the stuff I already new. But surprisingly, it was fresh info. Though his other book "victorian internet" deserves five starts
May 04, 2010 booklady marked it as reference  ·  review of another edition
Have looked into this book and really want to read the whole story someday...
Stephanie Hadley
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the trip it took me on through times of discovery of planets we now know exist in the universe surrounding us.
G. Branden
Mar 06, 2009 G. Branden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow going at first, and I put it down. But when I came back to it, it proved surprisingly engaging.
Dec 27, 2012 Marco rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, accessible writing of an interesting technical history.
Tim Robinson
Oct 01, 2015 Tim Robinson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Buy Neptune and get Uranus, Pluto and exoplanets absolutely free!
Jan 31, 2013 heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Amazing. Riveting read. Well-written and well-researched. One of my favorite books in science history.
William Bibliomane
William Bibliomane rated it it was amazing
Mar 27, 2016
Gnmsmom rated it it was ok
Oct 10, 2007
Aubrey Stapp
Aubrey Stapp rated it it was amazing
Jun 01, 2016
Erica Allen
Erica Allen rated it it was amazing
Oct 31, 2012
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Mavis Mather rated it it was amazing
Jun 02, 2008
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Greg Ecklund rated it really liked it
Mar 16, 2014
Matt Shaw
Matt Shaw rated it it was amazing
Mar 29, 2013
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Phil D rated it it was amazing
Jan 28, 2009
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Nov 21, 2015
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Tom Standage is a journalist and author from England. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked as a science and technology writer for The Guardian, as the business editor at The Economist, has been published in Wired, The New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published five books, including The Victorian Internet[1][2]. This book explores the historical development of the telegrap ...more
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