Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Story of Astronomy

Rate this book
From the ancient origins of astronomy to the Copernican revolution, and from Galileo to Stephen Hawking's research into black holes, the author of THE TRANSIT OF VENUS charts the discoveries of some of the greatest minds in human history, and their attempts to unveil the secrets of the stars.

This history includes such trivia as why we have 60 minutes in an hour, how the Romans botched the leap year, and when people really discovered that the Earth wasn't flat.

In a fascinating journey through 3,000 years of stargazing, Peter Aughton demonstrates what Newton, Einstein, Hubble, and Hawking really achieved, and evaluates the ongoing search for life on other planets. (Daedalus Books)

394 pages, Paperback

First published July 30, 2008

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peter Aughton

16 books2 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
14 (15%)
4 stars
45 (50%)
3 stars
23 (25%)
2 stars
6 (6%)
1 star
1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,241 followers
July 29, 2019
In August 1969 Joni Mitchell couldn’t get to the Woodstock Festival so instead she watched it on tv and wrote a song about it, you may know it

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

It turns out that she was scientifically accurate, as confirmed in the most beautiful passage from this book :

It is true that atoms can be split by collisions with other particles, but in general the atom is indestructible and it can exist forever. The human body is built up from complex organic molecules, but all those molecules are themselves composed of atoms. All the heavy atoms in our body have therefore been created inside a massive star or even in some cases a supernova. The atoms in our bodies are billions of years old. Through all this time the atoms remain “as good as new" . Nor have they aged since the time they left the distant and long-forgotten supernova from where they were originally created. We carry around in us remnants of supernovae explosions that took place aeons ago and millions of light years away.

Try bringing that up at your next family dinner.

“Granny, did you know that your body is composed of remnants of ancient stars which exploded millions of years ago?”

“Will you listen to the boy! You’ve been smoking those drugs again!”
Profile Image for Michael.
110 reviews38 followers
October 4, 2014
რატომღაც მინდოდა ამ წიგნისთვის უფრო მაღალი შეფასება მიმეცა, მაგრამ ასტრონომიის ისტორიის წარმოდგენა უფრო ვრცლად და საინტერესოდაც შეიძლებოდა.
შეიძლებოდა მეტი ინფორმაცია ყოფილიყო უძველესი ცივილიზაციების კალენდრებზე და ასტრონომიაზე. (მაგალითად მაიას ასტრონომია) შეიძლებოდა გაცილებით მეტი დაწერილიყო ტიხო ბრაჰეზე, კეპლერზე, ნიუტონზე, ჰერშელზე, ჰიუგენსზე (ჰიუგენსი საერთოდ არ იყო) ან ძველ ბერძნებზე, ალექსანდრიის სკოლაზე. მეოცე საუკუნის საოცარ აღმოჩენებზე. თანავარსკვლავედებზე და მათთან დაკავშირებულ მითებსა და წარმოდგენებზე, ან თუნდაც ასტროლოგიაზე, რომელიც მართალია დღეს სრულიად ზედმეტია პრაქტიკული თვალსაზრისით და ლამის new age რელიგიად იქცეს, მაგრამ ასტრონომიასთან ერთად დაიბადა და ხშირად მისგან განურჩეველიც იყო სანამ განმანათლებლობამ არ დააშორა მასთან.

არ გეგონოთ რომ ამ წიგნში საინტერესო მასალა არაა, მაგრამ "ასტრონომიის ისტორიისგან" გაცილებით მეტს ველოდი და უფრო ვრცლად.
რაც შეეხება დადებით მომენტს, ეს არის მარტივი ენით მოყოლილი ამბავი რომელიც არ დაგღლით. თუ გაინტერესებთ ასტრონომია, გირჩევთ წაიკითხოთ, მაგრამ გახსოვდეთ რომ არსებობს უამრავი ამბავი და აღმოჩენა რომელიც ამ წიგნის მიღმა რჩება. რომ ეს წიგნი ასტრონომიის ისტორიის მხოლოდ მონახაზს წარმოადგენს.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
744 reviews
February 4, 2023
This is a good general read about the history of astronomy, from ancient theories and attempts to measure the world to modern day achievements with space telescopes and particle accelerators.

I would have liked more on the ancient Babylonians, Greeks etc as it felt they rather got skimmed over, but then a lot of the texts known from that time exist mainly as quotations in later works. Similarly, although there are brief mentions of the Aztecs, Maya and other pre-Columbian Latin American cultures, they also get quite short-changed considering how advanced we know their astronomical knowledge was.

It's a very European-focused book, which is a bit frustrating, but you get all of the main names in here, along with explanations of their discoveries, theories etc. A lot of attention is given to the fact that science is always building on previous discoveries, always exploring what can be done or extrapolated from previous work, and the key figures are often linked in interesting (if sometimes coincidental ways).

The one other nitpick I would have is that the author often refers to "the moment of creation" when referring to e.g. star formation, the Big Bang, as if he believes something is actively putting things together. "Formation" would be more scientific, and his constant use of "creation", albeit with a small c, does make me think he's trying to smuggle in a religious viewpoint without being too obvious about it. Which annoys me slightly as I don't like people trying to smuggle religious views into a scientific book (*If* that is what he's doing - it could just be a poor choice of words, in which case fair enough).

Overall, it's a good overview - and you can always find a more specialist book to look further into certain details if you want to.
Profile Image for Hadyan Luthfan.
10 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2020
A compact, yet full of information, book with a simple and entertaining storytelling style. Learning about the history of astronomy as the oldest science of all means digging deeper into the origin of all physical sciences. Totally recommended for someone who wants to know about how modern cosmological science arises in one (or two) sitting(s).

In brief, the history of astronomy until the renaissance era is divided into four periods: Astronomy from Babylon to Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, The age of Ptolemy and the Almagest, Astronomy in the Middle Ages and Islamic golden age, and the most remarkable moment: the Copernican revolution. Those long and harsh journeys through centuries, along with Einstein's relativity and the rise of Quantum Physics that redefine astronomy, guide humanities to the age of modern science and space explorations.
Profile Image for Kristine.
157 reviews
October 3, 2021
Overall, this is a well-written summary of the story of astronomy for a wide audience including non-scientists. There are a few spots that were bothersome to me, however, including the false claim that the Apollo lunar missions provided little of commercial value and the false statement, "After the Moon landing the next step in the exploration of space no longer involved piloted missions." Also, for a book written in 2008 and updated in 2011, I was surprised to find outdated information on the status of the final Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission (STS-125 that flew in May 2009) and zero mention at all of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) commissioned in 2003 by NASA with an originally planned launch in 2010.
1 review
December 25, 2021
Great review of what we have a achieved in Astronomy

This book is well written and easy to read. Although written with the lay audience in mind it is an informative yet concise review of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology. It reviews many of the people along with their contributions to the advancement of these disciplines. Rich with relevant historical, geographical and scientific information, from Babylon to the present day, without burdening the reader with complex scientific theories or mathematics. If you have even a passive interest in the history of astronomy and cosmology you will enjoy this book.
June 2, 2021
A fascinating read which captures the complex beauty of the universe in a relatively accessible way.

The only complaint one may make is the use of terminology only explained once and then repetitively used later on in the book creating a mild sense of confusion.

Overall, this book has been very inspiring for me, an aspiring phycisist.
Profile Image for Retrobot.
88 reviews
July 31, 2017
Nice short pieces of history to casually read over. Nothing too heavy which is refreshing.
Profile Image for lili.
28 reviews23 followers
July 19, 2019
A joy to read. Simple language, easy to understand. A brief history of the study of astronomy.
Profile Image for Jules.
29 reviews7 followers
February 13, 2021
I really liked this book. I learned a lot and the writing style was very pleasant to read.
Profile Image for Tony Calder.
551 reviews9 followers
November 1, 2012
This is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in the history of astronomy. It covers from the very earliest days of man looking into the night sky and wondering about the twinkling lights through to the latest research into dark matter and dark energy (although the book was published in 2008, so the latest information is a few years old now).

It is written for those who may not have a background in science, and it doesn't require any great mathematical ability to be able to follow and digest the information provided - I can only recall one page having any equations, other than Einstein's famous equation on the relationship between mass and energy.
Profile Image for Nikita Aganoff.
22 reviews8 followers
July 28, 2013
Space is so amazing but also very terrifying - the universe is expanding but where does it expand to???
This book was very good, I learned so much. 10/10
Profile Image for Pavani Chennamsetti.
1 review7 followers
July 13, 2016
Perfect book to know how everything around has started. Easy to understand and interesting to proceed to the next chapters.
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.