On a summer's day in June 1761, astronomers all over the world cast their eyes to the sky to witness a rare astronomical event: the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. It was one of the most important collaborations of scientific history, as by racing to different points around the world and comparing results, these men hoped to unlock the key to one of the most pressing questions of the Enlightenment: the distance between the earth and the sun, which would allow them to calculate the dimensions of our solar system. For the first time, scientists from across the globe came together - despite politics, wars, trade disputes, terrible weather and bitter rivalry - to measure the universe.
Transits of Venus come in pairs, eight years apart - the next one will be June 2012, and won't occur again until December 2117. We will therefore be the last people for more than a century to see a phenomenon that inspired scientists from all over the world to work together for the first time in the history of mankind.
A thrilling adventure story, an inspiring tale of Enlightenment science, and a hugely informative slice of intellectual history with Britain at its centre, Chasing Venus is going to be this decade's Longitude.
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Andrea Wulf's story of the chase is an enthralling, nail-biting thriller and will undoubtedly prove one of the non-fiction books of the year. Even if you fail to see the Transit, don't miss this wonderful book, - Daily Mail
A fine example of scientific storytelling about astronomers of the Enlightenment observing the transit of Venus. Publishers got hot for science writing when Longitude by Dava Sobel took off unexpectedly as a long-term bestseller…Andrea Wulf’s story of how astronomers of the Enlightenment hoped to measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun by observing the transit of Venus internationally on June 6, 1761, and again on June 3, 1769, is another fine example of such scientific storytelling…From the original inspiration of Edmund Halley that led to the active co-operation of Captain Cook, Benjamin Franklin and even Catherine the Great, the enterprise is narrated with elegant expertise. - The Times
Historian Andrea Wulf’s Chasing Venus is beautifully paced, alternating between expeditions, with lush descriptions of the often arduous journeys involved. - Nature
Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens takes us first to the year 1761 andthe phenomena that is a transit of Venus.It charts the story of a truly internationaleffort; to not only observe the transit of 6June 1761 and indeed its partner of 3 June1769, but to present the real quest that was to finally determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The author weaves parallel stories involving the French and British expeditions, but makes sure that other delegations from Sweden, Germany, Italy and Russia are given a fair airing. Through this platform we meet the real characters. As political leaders try to prevent bloodshed on battlefields and carnage in capitals, the global scientific community, more appropriately philosophers and astronomers, contemplate their task in the dawn of enlightenment… [an]outstanding book! It's the book of the year so far – do not miss it! - Astronomy Now
[a] truly excellent book…Andrea Wulf tell[s] the rip-roaring tales of numerous expeditions that set off around the globe to observe the Venusian transit of 1761…[She] communicate[s] the verve and energy – not to mention the perilous nature – of the expeditions. - New Scientist
Replete with meticulous detail, delightful illustrations and a cast of very familiar names from world history, Chasing Venus is an eminently readable account of humanity’s effort to chart the heavens. At once an exhilarating adventure, a tale of personal obsession, a tragedy and a detailed history of astronomical endeavour, Wulf’s latest work is a fascinating read. - Press Association
The result is a human story, and it’s worth reading as a rallying call to humanity’s quest to explore the universe simple for the sake of it. - Telegraph
Andrea Wulf’s immaculately researched book describes the endeavours of the early scientific community to observe the transit around the world…an absorbing…exciting yarn. - The Lady
Chasing Venus is the entertaining tale of the expeditions that set off across the globe to use a transit of Venus to gain the first true measure of the size of the Solar System…[Wulf] write in a light, educational style that carries the story…Chasing Venus captures the spirit of adventure and the wonder at mankind’s new-found ability to understand the world around it…Chasing Venus is a pleasure to read from beginning to end. - Sky at Night Magazine
[A] thrilling, stirring tale, very well told, of global cooperation, and how the passion for Enlightenment triumphed against enormous odds. - Guardian
[A] fine scientific history, full of interesting nuggets. - Sunday Telegraph
[a] thrilling book…an absorbing, even exciting yarn. - Independent
Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art and is the author of The Brother Gardeners (longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2008 and winner of the American Horticultural Society 2010 Book Award), The Founding Gardeners and the co-author (with Emma Gieben-Gamal) of This Other Eden: Seven Great Gardens and 300 Years of English History. She has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and many others. She lives in London.