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The Day We Found the Universe

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  722 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
The riveting and mesmerizing story behind a watershed period in human history, the discovery of the startling size and true nature of our universe.
On New Years Day in 1925, a young Edwin Hubble released his finding that our Universe was far bigger, eventually measured as a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed. Hubble’s proclamation sent shock waves thro
Paperback, 366 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Vintage (first published April 7th 1986)
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Clif Hostetler
Aug 28, 2009 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This book provides a virtual front row seat to the discoveries of facts about the universe that were bigger, stranger, and more spectacular than anybody could have imagined at the beginning of the 20th Century. Today the newness has worn off of such terms as expanding universe, space-time continuum, and multiple galaxies. So it's good to imagine the excitement that must have been felt when these words were first uttered. If these concepts seem unfathomable now, they were even more unbelievable t ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Of course, there is that scene in Cosmos where Carl Sagan is sitting on a beach somewhere and talking about the stars. He picks up a handful of sand and says that the number of grains of sand in his hand is about as many as the number of stars you might be able to see unaided if you looked up at a clear night sky. He then says that modern cosmology has shown that there are more stars in the universe than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.

This is a book about what happened w
Paul Bryant
Aug 17, 2013 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
One day in 1925 :

Hubble : The universe is bigger than everybody thinks.

A humbler astronomer invented for the purpose of this review : Yeah? How big are we talking?

Hubble : Well, you know the Milky Way? Okay, now see through this telescope, see those little wispy things there?

Astronomling: You mean those spiral nebulae?

Hubble : Well what if I told you they weren’t spiral nebulae?

Little astronomer: Aww, you mean they’re just smudges on the lens? Damn. We wasted a lot of time on those things.

Nov 17, 2009 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fantastic, popular-science history of a pivotal era in astronomy: the moment in time when we went from a belief that the Milky Way was the Universe entire, to the knowledge that the Milky Way is but one galaxy in a Universe comprising billions of others.

Both the famous names (Hubble, Einstein, etc) and the less well-known players (Vesto Slipher, Milton Humason, Georges Lemaître, etc) are represented in this fascinating, well-written, and well-researched book.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jan 20, 2012 Cassandra Kay Silva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I can't even imagine what it would have felt like to have seen some of these early images of the expanding universe during this time but it must have been completely inspiring, and if any book gives you a glimpse into what this must have felt like this book is it. It contains an assortment of well known and less well known but equally important contributors to Astronomy in the early 1900's leading towards today. It really makes you look differently at the giants of this time such as Edwin Hubble ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Grumpus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Grumpus by: Trevor McCandless
Shelves: audiobook, space
Oh, to have been an astronomer in the heyday in the early 1900s. I've always wanted to be an astronomer (was never good in physics). Now I know what time I would have ideally wanted to be one. Everything was new...the telescopes, the country, the skies were free from light pollution, and the glory of discovery. Oh, to dream.
Dec 20, 2013 Gossamerblu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dramatic and wonderfully written book about a special group of scientists that shaped our knowledge of the universe, in turbulent period at the beginning of the 20th century.
It follows their lives, their work, their battles of ideas, theories and calculations that inflated our universe from our solar system and Milky Way to the ever-expanding vastness filled with countless galaxies.
Meet the scientists that searched for their answers among the stars, people like James Keeler, Heber Curtis, Hen
Aug 30, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting history (mainly 1910-1930 ish) of how they determined that those fuzzy "small and nearby" nebulae were really far distant galaxies. I liked it because it doesn't just say "and they found it was this far away;" but she explains how they came to and verified their conclusions.
Dec 08, 2014 carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The universe is expanding and so is my brain from reading this book, although not at the same rate.
History is boring, Astronomy is fun. So, this book was half way in between.
Mar 01, 2017 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: John O'Bryan
A fascinating history about Edwin Hubble's discovery (with the help of quite a few others) that our universe was much larger than we ever imagined, this is a book that grabs you from the beginning and holds you until the end. Much of what we know about our universe now was not so apparent until Hubble's findings were unveiled on January 1, 1925. The impact of that unveiling has reverberated to this day. What is even more incredible is to consider that those of us fortunate enough to reside in or ...more
Feb 27, 2015 Rusty rated it really liked it
I don't think there is a word for this in english, but I'm pretty sure there is in some other language. But it's the thing where you've had some sort of impossible to articulate epiphany about something. Wait, maybe that's an epiphany. Dammit. Words are so hard.

Whatever the case may be, I recall with great clarity the moment that I realized that some little piece of trivia I'd picked up in passing was probably the entire life's work of a brilliant man or woman at one time, and quite possibly, w
Andrew Hove
Feb 21, 2017 Andrew Hove rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on the brief history of Astronomy in the time leading up to Edwin Hubble's discovery that the Milky Way as one of many Galaxies in the universe and not the only one. Fantastic information on the politics and technological advancement of Astronomy. Does a great job describing the impact that Einstein and his theory of relativity had on the field.
In the 1920s we found out that the universe is much bigger than we thought and getting bigger. The main person who generally gets the credit is the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, who worked at the Mount Wilson observatory near Pasadena, California. Hubble's contributions were important but not the whole story. Vesto Slipher, an astromer at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, had noticed that the light from what were then called spiral nubulae were mostly Doppler shifted to the red end of spect ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Description: On January 1, 1925, thirty-five-year-old Edwin Hubble announced the observation that ultimately established that our universe was a thousand trillion times larger than previously believed, filled with myriad galaxies like our own. This discovery dramatically reshaped how humans understood their place in the cosmos, and once and for all laid to rest the idea that the Milky Way galaxy was alone in the universe. Six years later, continuing research by Hubble and others forced Albert Ei ...more
Jun 25, 2014 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is easily the most interesting book that I've
read this year and I've read quite a few. Please
don't shy away from it due to a fear that it might
be a difficult read, it's totally accessible and
requires no prior knowledge of astronomy &c.

The action really starts just prior to 1900 and
continues on for the first three decades of that
century, a period that revolutionized our under-
standing of the Universe, its structure, extent
and our place in it.

Einstein's is a name familiar to all of us, an
Patrick Ross
The format of this book--tell a story of a significant development in history while covering multiple individuals rather than one--can be both informative and fun to read; think Isaacson's The Innovators or Ambrose's Nothing Like it In the World (about the transcontinental railroad). Bartusiak attempts here to tell the story of the astronomers who figured out that our galaxy is not alone in the universe, but that nebula are in fact other galaxies, and they are far away, multiple beyond count, an ...more
Aug 02, 2009 Joshua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before the first world war the universe was not much bigger than the Milky Way. Every pinpoint and smudge of light that could be seen through the best telescopes of the time were believed to exist within the confines of our own galaxy. During the decade after the war, all that changed when Edwin Hubble came to Mount Wilson to peer at the night sky through the 100 inch reflector. By 1930, we new that the universe was made of innumerable galaxies speeding away from us at every increasing velocitie ...more
Mar 13, 2015 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A solid book if you're into the history of astronomy or cosmology. It investigates the people who's discoveries and work laid the foundation for Hubble's discovery and the day alluded to in the title, and the people who were substantially more daring than Hubble (Hubble was rather conservative and not much into the theoretical, very much into CYA) who had a better grasp of the implications of Hubble's work than Hubble himself did.
Henrietta Swan Leavitt's work on Cepheid variables really set th
Billie Mulcahy
Feb 20, 2011 Billie Mulcahy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Beginning in 1888, with the construction of the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton in California, to the Mount Wison Observatory, with its 100 inch telescope where Hubble discovered, in 1925, that there were other galaxies, Bartusiak describes the many astronomers and the advances in telescopes that lead to Hubble's discoveries. The story begins with a wealthy man, James Lick, who wanted to build a monument to himself, and decided to build a marble pyramid that would have been larger than the py ...more
Dec 26, 2009 Brie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in learning how we discovered the size of the Universe
A very interesting book. I have to admit that when I first started to read it, I found the writing very dry, and only my interest in the subject kept me reading. I'm not sure whether the writing improved throughout the book, or if I became used to her writing style, but by the end I loved the book. I hope she writes a continuation covering the discovery of the Big Bang theory, and the astronomers involved in that discovery.

The author starts off talking about each astronomer and their discoverie
Jan 29, 2014 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
the title of this book should be changed to "The entire history of star gazing PLUS the entire backstory of every person that ever had a telescope in their life AND (maybe) the day they all got together"

i did not finish this book. i made it about halfway through and it was the most boring thing ever! i was expecting a book about a single day and some in depth knowledge on that day and some stuff about astrophysics and scientists who i have heard of and who i havent.

well, this is not that. and i
Jul 02, 2012 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you care about how we learned what we know today, then the history of science is important and you will like, probably love, this book. A complete and well-told story of a branch of astronomy featuring Lick Observatory (the first built at high elevation), the infancy of space photography, spectroscopy, and all the contributions that led to Hubble's seminal work in the 1920s. A great illustration of how the scientific method produces new understanding. it made me humble: it's easy to mock peop ...more
Jan 17, 2017 Kurt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
A great blend of science and history, this is the story of how we came to understand the scale of our universe and our place within it.

It boggles my mind to realize that less than one hundred years ago conventional scientific theory considered our Milky Way galaxy to be the entire universe, and our Sun the very center of that universe. Between the years of the late 1800's through the early 1930's all this changed. This book describes how men (and a few women) strived to understand and explain th
Dec 30, 2011 JodiP rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This was a very interesting account of how scientists discovered that the Milky Way is not the only galaxy, and that the universe was much, much, larger than thought. It was like a great detective story, with many false leads, egos and missed opportunities along the way. When Hubble ocnfirmed that nebulae were actually distant galaxies, this resulted in eventual unerstanding that the universe was TRILLIONS of times bigger than estimated prior to this. This line is int he introduction and stuck w ...more
Jun 14, 2012 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Challenging enough to teach one something, and be worth one's time. Very clear in explication. In the early 20th century we learned that the universe is much larger than we at first thought. Edwin Hubble was the dashing, romantic figure who proved it, but Marcia Bartusiak doesn't slight the other important figures who were part of the discovery. Bartusiak's explanations are clear and straightforward, and additionally, she is a very nice lady. Don't miss her Thursday's Universe.Thursday's Univers ...more
Oh my god. I started this book two and a half years ago and I finally FINALLY finished it. It was extremely interesting leading up to Hubble. In the "Adonis" chapter, where the author introduces Hubble, I completely lost interest. I disliked Hubble's persona and arrogance which put me off finishing the book for so long. I've been reading so much physics and cosmology lately though, I just couldn't leave this unread any longer. I got through my personal distaste of Hubble but focusing my attentio ...more
Mar 03, 2013 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Picked this up at the gift shop at the Griffith Park Observatory (great place to visit BTW). This is a fascinating and engaging story of how Edwin Hubble proved that we weren't the only galaxy in the universe and about all the players that came before him and contributed to what he ultimately determined. The astrophysics wasn't too difficult to keep up with, and the the story of the cast of characters was interesting. Good, easy read
Jesse Reiss
Jun 25, 2014 Jesse Reiss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific insight and careful explanation about how the universe was discovered. Wonderful anecdotes, background information and buildup to Einstein's acceptance and confirmation of it all. Hubble plays a major role but all the characters and their roles are laid out and explained. No complex math. Any layman with a high school education could read this book and leave it fully enlightened about the universe they live in.
Dec 07, 2013 Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first astronomy book I've read since I was in grammar school, so I was a bit nervous that it would be over my head. It wasn't! Marcia Bartusiak is such a masterful writer, she took a complicated topic and made it both readable and interesting. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in astronomy, history, or science in general. This book has opened doors to me for further reading about the heavens!
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Combining her skills as a journalist with an advanced degree in physics, Marcia Bartusiak (pronounced MAR-sha Bar-TOO-shack) has been covering the fields of astronomy and physics for three decades. Currently, she is a visiting professor with the Graduate Program in Science Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bartusiak is the author of Thursday's Universe, a layman's guide to the ...more
More about Marcia Bartusiak...

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“Hubble was lucky in a way. The Hubble Space Telescope could easily have been given another name had certain events turned out differently: if someone had not prematurely died (Keeler), if someone else had not taken a promotion (Curtis), or if another (Shapley) was not mulishly wedded to a flawed vision of the cosmos. The discovery of the modern universe is a story filled with trials, errors, serendipitous breaks, battles of wills, missed opportunities, herculean measurements, and brilliant insights. In other words, it is science writ large.” 0 likes
“Personally I am glad to see man sink into such physical nothingness, and it is wholesome for human beings to realize of what small importance they are in comparison with the universe,” 0 likes
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