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Cosmic Noise
A History of Early Radio Astronomy


  • Date Published: November 2009
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521765244

£ 130.00

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About the Authors
  • Providing a definitive history of the formative years of radio astronomy, this book is invaluable for historians of science, scientists and engineers. The whole of worldwide radio and radar astronomy is covered, beginning with the discoveries by Jansky and Reber of cosmic noise before World War II, through the wartime detections of solar noise, the discovery of radio stars, lunar and meteor radar experiments, the detection of the hydrogen spectral line, to the discoveries of Hey, Ryle, Lovell and Pawsey in the decade following the war, revealing an entirely different sky from that of visual astronomy. Using contemporary literature, correspondence and photographs, the book tells the story of the people who shaped the intellectual, technical, and social aspects of the field now known as radio astronomy. The book features quotes from over a hundred interviews with pioneering radio astronomers, giving fascinating insights into the development of radio astronomy. Woodruff T. Sullivan III has been awarded the 2012 Leroy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy.

    • Includes an annotated table of contents as well as a chronological list of references to help the reader trace the history of the subject through key publications
    • Features quotes from over 100 interviews with pioneering radio astronomers
    • Uses literature, correspondence and over 180 photographs and illustrations from many sources to tell the fascinating story of radio astronomy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Sullivan's work is a product of 25 years in the history of science and only slightly longer in the realm of professional radio astronomers … [Encompasses] essentially all major characters and incidents of early radio astronomy … Cosmic Noise covers the multiple strands that amorphously connect the late nineteenth-century discovery of radio waves to 1952/53 radio astronomy … a commendable job of assembling people, their memories, their publications, their instruments, and their institutions to give a solid overview of the early history of a diverse field.' Metascience

    '[A] … marvelous book … well written and extraordinarily thorough … everything you might want to know, and more. Sullivan has dug very deep to put this book together. Students, researchers, and historians of science interested in radio astronomy will want to read Cosmic Noise to get a definitive history of the field.' Marshall H. Cohen, Physics Today

    'Sullivan … has produced a definitive chronicle of the cavalcade of breakthroughs that led to a new field of science within a very short time - short for science but a long time when writing a book. Sullivan's tome (exquisitely annotated for scholars) possesses an engaging style and is accessible to experts and novices alike.' Kieron Murphy, IEEE Spectrum

    'Some readers will appreciate the book for its close attention to the dynamics of discipline formation, others for the careful explanation of how a research tradition shifts from little science to big science … Sullivan's care in constructing and cross-referencing bibliography and his index make any number of themes, figures, and developments readily available. The appendix on the techniques, advantages, and pitfalls of conducting oral history interviews is an excellent essay that anyone working in oral history should read … Cosmic Noise is a fine book that deserves a broad readership.' Craig Sean McConnell, Journal for the History of Astronomy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2009
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521765244
    • length: 574 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 183 x 30 mm
    • weight: 1.38kg
    • contains: 132 b/w illus.
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Prologue
    2. Searching for solar hertzian waves
    3. Jansky and his star static
    4. Grote Reber: science in your backyard
    5. Wartime discovery of the radio sun
    6. Hey's army group after the war
    7.Radiophysics laboratory, Sydney
    8. Ryle's group at the Cavendish
    9. Lovell at Jodrell Bank
    10. Other radio astronomy groups before 1952
    11. Meteor radar
    12. Reaching for the moon
    13. The radio sun
    14. Radio stars
    15. Theories of galactic noise
    16. The 21-cm hydrogen line
    17. New astronomers
    18. A new astronomy

  • Author

    Woodruff T. Sullivan, III, University of Washington
    Woodruff T. Sullivan III is Professor of Astronomy and Adjunct Professor of History at the University of Washington, Seattle. Trained as a radio astronomer, his research has included radio studies of the interstellar medium in our own and other galaxies, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and astrobiology.

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