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Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics

£29.00

  • Date Published: March 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521055796

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About the Authors
  • Born in Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, Agnes Mary Clerke achieved fame as the author of A History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century. Through her quarter-century career, she became the leading commentator on astronomy and astrophysics in the English-speaking world. The biography of Agnes Clerke describes the life and work of this extraordinary woman. It also chronicles the development of astronomy in the last decades of pre-Einstein science, and introduces many of the great figures in astronomy of that age including Huggins, Lockyer, Holden and Pickering; their achievements and their rivalries. The story follows her friendship with William and Margaret Huggins, and her prolific correspondence with eminent astronomers of the time. This biography will fascinate scientists, and anyone who admires intellectual achievement brought about through love of learning and sheer hard work.

    • Biography of a successful nineteenth-century career woman
    • Scientific background is clearly explained
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Mary Brück's biography is a detailed and insightful look at a fascinating life … Brück has produced a brilliant biography. But its also a revealing investigation of the role of women in astronomy at the turn of the last century, and of the transition of astronomical practitioners from rich, privately funded amateurs to today's professional wage slave.' Carole Stott, New Scientist

    'Mary Brück has succeeded in painting an attractive portrait of a woman who was obviously not only highly intelligent but must also have been a pleasure to know … Agnes Clerke was a significant figure and we should not have had to wait nearly a century after her death for an account of her life. Perhaps, however, Agnes' spirit thinks the wait worthwhile, since this biography is a model of what scientific biography should be.' Alan H. Batten, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage

    'Agnes Clerke was the most influential writer on astronomy in the English language at the end of the Victorian era … Mary Brück's book tells the story of this remarkable woman … Brück has written an excellent book. Her thorough research in numerous archives and in Clerke's publications is well documented in the notes, and numerous well-chosen photographs illustrate the text … Brück paints a fascinating picture of the rich fabric of British astronomy and astrophysics at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a highly readable, well-produced, attractive book.' Donald E. Osterbrock, Nature

    'This book by Mary Brück is the first full-length Agnes Clerke biography and gives an excellent account of her life and work … Brück has put a tremendous amount of work into this book and her material has been well chosen … The style is clear and the extensive references will be of great value to scientific historians. Clerke deserves a good biography and Brück has provided one.' Patrick Moore, The Times Higher Education Supplement

    'What makes this book so different from others about Clerke is that the story not only deals with her work, but also introduces many of the prominent astronomers of the age … The author's grasp of the material is so thorough that one is almost tempted to believe that she must at times have been present in person - privy not only to the many achievements of her subjects, but also to their rivalries and feuds … With voluminous notes and references, as well as many photographs of those whom the author describes, it is a pleasure to welcome this beautiful book, which will be enjoyed by astronomers and non-astronomers alike. Both sets of readers will enjoy a good story, superbly told.' Susan McKenna-Lawor, Physics World

    'Mary Brück describes Agnes Clerke's first and most important work, her Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century, as 'remarkable for its extraordinary thoroughness'. These words could equally well be applied to the present book, an account of Clerke's family background, life and work, based on an exhaustive examination of what must be all the known sources available. The result is impressive.' Mary R. S. Creese, Endeavour

    'This is a well-crafted account of the life of an important character in the history of our science and is to be warmly welcomed.' Davids Stickland, The Observatory

    'Dr Brück herself a highly competent astronomer, has brought Agnes Clerke to life in a fascinating book, indeed the two have a lot in common, even by birth. in a deceptively small work of 275 pages so much information is packed.' Astronomical Society of Edinburgh

    'Mary Brück's fascinating biography of this extraordinary Skibbereen woman will captivate you like no other story of achievement.' Southern Star

    'This handsome little volume, with a generous sprinkling of pithy quotes from both published and unpublished sources and a good dose of history and astrophysics, is marvellously produced and very appealing.' NTM

    'this monumental work will rank with Jankin's 1980 book on Hamilton. Would that we had access to more biographical treatments of our scientific luminaries in similar depth.' Roy Johnson, Books Ireland

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521055796
    • length: 288 pages
    • dimensions: 216 x 140 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.37kg
    • contains: 23 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Acknowledgements
    Introduction
    1. Family background in County Cork
    2. Ireland and Italy
    3. London, the literary scene
    4. The History of Astronomy
    5. A circle of astronomers
    6. A visit to South Africa
    7. The System of the Stars
    8. Social life in scientific circles
    9. Homer, the Herschels and a revised History
    10. The opinion moulder
    11. Popularisation, cryogenics and evolution
    12. Problems in Astrophysics
    13. Women in astronomy in Britain in Agnes Clerke's time
    14. Revised System of the Stars
    15. Cosmogonies, cosmology and Nature's spiritual clues
    16. Last days and retrospect
    17. Epilogue
    Notes
    Appendix
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Author

    M. T. Brück
    Mary Bruck gained her PhD in astronomy from the University of Edinburgh, where she went on to become a Senior Lecturer in astronomy. Her main research interest was in photographic stellar photometry and spectroscopy. Now retired, she has a special interest in nineteenth century British and Irish women in astronomy, about whom she has written numerous articles. In 2001, Dr Bruck was awarded the Lorimer Medal of the Astronomical Society of Edinburgh.

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