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Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy: A History of Visual Observing from Harriot to Moore by Neil English

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#1 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 10:09 AM

Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy: A History of Visual Observing from Harriot to Moore is a good-read for “we stargazers” and telescopists of a mellowed age. As winter approaches, I can imagine myself re-reading the hard cover version of this book, sitting in my soft recliner, snuggled into a warm throw with my dog on my lap and a steaming cup of hot chocolate or tea on the lamp stand alongside, as the snow drifts down or as the bright stars of the winter constellatory asterism appear outside my window.

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#2 Jim Curry

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 10:41 AM

I too enjoy Neil's writings,  I have several of his books.

 

And you ain't too bad yourself.

 

Jim


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#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 11:00 AM

Thanks for the excellent review! I ordered it yesterday and it arrives here tomorrow!    Tom


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#4 BoldAxis1967

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 12:19 PM

Wonderful review, well communicated. 

 

At over $200 at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and AbeBooks I will have to wait until some used ones become available.

 

L.


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#5 JimP

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Posted 03 February 2019 - 12:36 PM

Just ordered my copy! 

 

I also recommend The Victorian Amateur Astronomer...

You can buy at a very reasonable price on abebooksdotcom


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#6 Sarkikos

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Posted 13 February 2019 - 12:59 PM

$200?  Why so much?

 

Mike



#7 Otto Piechowski

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Posted 14 February 2019 - 11:43 AM

I was informed the cost was necessitated by the publisher's choice to prepare and promote this book within the publishing area assigned to academicians and scientists.  Though this might sacrifice some of the amateur audience, an unfortunate loss, it was hoped by this decision that this book would come to the attention and reach the professional audience with a work of sound research articulated in high quality prose.



#8 JimP

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Posted 17 February 2019 - 05:58 PM

About 1/2 way through and I am enjoying the book with one exception. I am tired of the constant attacks not only on refractors but those amateurs who today would choose a smaller refractor over a larger aperture reflector and he gets downright personal in his attacks. This is totally unnecessary and a distraction to an otherwise excellent book.

 

He has no problem with agreeing with Denning that 8-10" Reflectors might outperform much larger aperture Reflectors but does not seem to be willing to say that an 8-10" Refractor might just be able to perform better than a much larger aperture Reflector. No, it's always a comparison of 8-10" reflectors to 4" refractors. No fool would suggest a 4" refractor will outperform an 8-10" anything. The author is "hung up" on cost to the point that he is only capable of comparing what can be purchased for equal dollars and not comparing equal aperture scopes. I have been observing since September 1965, have owned all types of telescopes up to 20" aperture (Reflector), and now am very satisfied with my decision to own 5", 6", 8" and 10" aperture triplet refractors.

 

Given the amount of money individuals like Lassell spent, not only on building his large aperture Reflectors, but the cost of dismantling them and shipping them to Malta to observe from there, one might not criticise the amount of money an individual would spend to own a very high quality triplet refractor. Think of the cost of the 36" and 72" Reflectors of Lord Oxmantown! People spend what they can afford. I think spending what one can afford to spend to own and use a medium aperture triplet refractor need not be looked down upon.

 

 

 

Otherwise, as I said, I am about half way through (although I did skip forward to the review of W. F. Denning's fine book) and am vey pleased with it. Expensive? Yes. But, much like a refractor, worth the expense.


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#9 25585

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Posted 20 February 2019 - 07:27 AM

Like to have it on Kindle. Still too expensive at present.



#10 Rich (RLTYS)

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 11:39 AM

Even a Kindle version on Amazon is $200.00. And used copies aren't much cheaper and in some cases more expensive. Would love to read it but way too expensive for me.


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#11 Vesper818

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Posted 27 February 2019 - 03:21 PM

I am going to request it through our library program.
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#12 obrazell

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Posted 19 April 2019 - 09:08 AM

I would agree with JimP about the authors focus on long f-ratio achromats. To be this suggests the author has lost the plot at some point. The book could also have done with a lot more proof reading and checking of images.. I found that the vignettes for early people are quite good, although most could be got from Wikipedia. The later people are covered downright poorly and the research? Shows up badly when he covers  the collection of Walter Scott Houstons columns in Deep Sky Wonders. He does nto seem to realise that a lot of this is Stephen O'Meara's work in concatenating the material from the orginal columns. I get the impression the author thinks he is up there with Scottly as an observer because they both used classical achromats. For the money I found it very disappointing. I must confess that I thought English's book on Dobsonians was also very poor so I am not sure why he is rated so highly as a writer.



#13 TrevM

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Posted 20 April 2019 - 02:46 PM

I have spent several weeks reading through Dr. English’s latest tome. I’ve been a fan of his writing style for some years now and he’s obviously a highly experienced observer in his own right judging by the insights he brings to his writings.  I think that this work is, by some considerable margin, his greatest. He writes reverentially about a great many visual observers over the centuries. All the greats are covered in this book in extraordinary detail and the amount of research he put into it really shines through. I especially loved his work on William F. Denning who was relatively unknown to the modern reader until English brought his life to the fore on his website, as well as in the book. His essay on the long non-achromatic telescopes is excellent, as well as those covering the Herschels, Percival Lowell, W.R. Dawes, Asaph Hall, E.E. Barnard, the double star observers, Aitken and S.W. Burnham, A. Dolfus and the astronomers at Meudon Observatory, Stanley Williams, Charles Grover and many more.  It is beautifully written and a real page turner. English is undoubtedly a controversial figure but that makes him all the more interesting to read. This book is right up there with Dr. Allan Chapman’s the Victorian Amateur Astronomer and I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the history of both amateur and professional astronomy. 

TrevM


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#14 highfnum

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 02:37 PM

pulled trigger and ordered one 

 

long and I mean long  24 feet 48 feet refractors

I have 

 

want to read his take on them 



#15 highfnum

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 05:42 PM

book came already 

I got one point I read about Harriot and diggs 

I  built a diggs scope

50X1000mm biconvex lens and 100mm concave mirror about 10 power 

works quite well and field of view is wider than Galileo scope

and better color correction 


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#16 russell23

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Posted 24 April 2019 - 07:48 PM

About 1/2 way through and I am enjoying the book with one exception. I am tired of the constant attacks not only on refractors but those amateurs who today would choose a smaller refractor over a larger aperture reflector and he gets downright personal in his attacks. This is totally unnecessary and a distraction to an otherwise excellent book.

 

He has no problem with agreeing with Denning that 8-10" Reflectors might outperform much larger aperture Reflectors but does not seem to be willing to say that an 8-10" Refractor might just be able to perform better than a much larger aperture Reflector. No, it's always a comparison of 8-10" reflectors to 4" refractors. No fool would suggest a 4" refractor will outperform an 8-10" anything. The author is "hung up" on cost to the point that he is only capable of comparing what can be purchased for equal dollars and not comparing equal aperture scopes. I have been observing since September 1965, have owned all types of telescopes up to 20" aperture (Reflector), and now am very satisfied with my decision to own 5", 6", 8" and 10" aperture triplet refractors.

 

Given the amount of money individuals like Lassell spent, not only on building his large aperture Reflectors, but the cost of dismantling them and shipping them to Malta to observe from there, one might not criticise the amount of money an individual would spend to own a very high quality triplet refractor. Think of the cost of the 36" and 72" Reflectors of Lord Oxmantown! People spend what they can afford. I think spending what one can afford to spend to own and use a medium aperture triplet refractor need not be looked down upon.

 

 

 

Otherwise, as I said, I am about half way through (although I did skip forward to the review of W. F. Denning's fine book) and am vey pleased with it. Expensive? Yes. But, much like a refractor, worth the expense.

:lol:

 

Yes ... I've had those exact sentiments directed at me by a certain someone.  

 

My thoughts about it:  blahblah.gif

 



#17 highfnum

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 04:16 PM

I did not know that new mirror at birr castle was aluminum metal mirror

not aluminum on glass 

I modern twist to  an old idea



#18 danmdak

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Posted 15 May 2019 - 09:48 PM

SO GLAD to see a respected scientist mention that ET life may be rare or unique. When I raised the idea here awhile back, based on science and statistics,  I was pretty much roasted alive for thinking it. Will have to go to the library and get a copy from the interlibrary loan. Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the review.



#19 highfnum

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Posted 18 May 2019 - 07:16 AM

at several points the books refers to other books 

oh no more money spent!



#20 russell23

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Posted 18 May 2019 - 02:12 PM

SO GLAD to see a respected scientist mention that ET life may be rare or unique. When I raised the idea here awhile back, based on science and statistics,  I was pretty much roasted alive for thinking it. Will have to go to the library and get a copy from the interlibrary loan. Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the review.

I haven't read this book, but I know this author has what would be most accurately classified as a "creationist" point of view - and that is a reason for his agenda against evolution and ET life.   Perhaps that explains his anti-APO rants since the APO represents an evolution of the refractor.

 

If you want to read a book that discusses the rarity of ET life based upon a scientific analysis there is the ~20 year old book titled "Rare Earth". 


Edited by russell23, 18 May 2019 - 02:13 PM.

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#21 TrevM

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 03:42 PM

Don't you just love conspiracy theorists. The book says nothing of the sort but as you point out, you never read it. Looks like a simple case of prejudice to me. He's Darwin skeptic...but he's not alone these days. The latest science just doesn't support it. 



#22 russell23

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 03:54 PM

Don't you just love conspiracy theorists. The book says nothing of the sort but as you point out, you never read it. Looks like a simple case of prejudice to me. He's Darwin skeptic...but he's not alone these days. The latest science just doesn't support it. 

What exactly did I write that makes me a "conspiracy theorist"?  You don't know what direct interactions I've had with this author.   I don't need to read his book because I've had interactions with the author enough to know what he has to say about ET life.   All I'm saying is if you want a treatment of the rareness of ET life that comes from a scientific point of view and not a creationist driven point of view, you can read a book such as "Rare Earth" by Brownlee and Ward ... or any of the numerous research articles on the topic. 

 

Although one might wonder what exactly a modern scientific take on ET life has to do with a book titled:   "Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy: A History of Visual Astronomy from Harriet to Moore."    What does a discussion of the rareness of ET life have to do with a history of visual astronomy?  And while we are at it - what does the author's anti-APO rantings have to do with a history of visual astronomy from Harriet to Moore? 

 

It appears that by including these topics in the book the author is using the book as another opportunity to grind a few of his personal axes.    Hope he feels better getting those rants off his chest. 


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#23 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 04:33 PM

What exactly did I write that makes me a "conspiracy theorist"?  You don't know what direct interactions I've had with this author.   I don't need to read his book because I've had interactions with the author enough to know what he has to say about ET life.

 

 

waytogo.gif

 

Indeed.  I have received a sufficient number of unsolicited CN Private Messages from the author to support what David has written. 

 

I posted this reluctantly because there is a likelihood that I will be receiving another unsolicited PM here shortly.  I ignore them and recommend if any of you receive something, it is best just to ignore it. 

 

Jon Isaacs


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#24 TrevM

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 05:53 PM

I have that book btw: Bit dated now though. 

 

My point is the English's book is a good history of amateur astronomy and one small part of that narrative was mankind's obsession with ET. Just a very unusual take on it all...interesting. 

 

Hardly mentions much about apos either for that matter.



#25 russell23

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Posted 19 May 2019 - 07:10 PM

I have that book btw: Bit dated now though. 

 

My point is the English's book is a good history of amateur astronomy and one small part of that narrative was mankind's obsession with ET. Just a very unusual take on it all...interesting. 

 

Hardly mentions much about apos either for that matter.

Yes.  I've got a collection of antiquarian astronomy books and particularly enjoyed Richard Proctor's  "Other Worlds than Ours" and his discussion of the plurality of worlds.   Life on other worlds was a topic of interest at that time.   Proctor based his arguments on the idea that the creator would not have created a world that did not serve some purpose related to life.   It was an interesting blending of belief in a creator and the science of the time.

 

My point is that Neil has a creationist perspective and argue's against evolution/Darwin.  Whether or not he has done so in the book does not matter.  He is using some published science to support his point of view, but his point of view does have a creationist impetus.   So if you are looking for scientific information relating to rare Earth, I would not point to him as a scientist authority on the question.  If you are looking for arguments that science supports a creationist view on rare Earth then he would be a good source.

 

And the idea that the Earth/ET life may be rare has been around for quite a while.  

 

Regarding the APO's:  JimP said the following in an earlier post:

 

I am tired of the constant attacks not only on refractors but those amateurs who today would choose a smaller refractor over a larger aperture reflector and he gets downright personal in his attacks. This is totally unnecessary and a distraction to an otherwise excellent book.

 

Those comments are directed at me and others that have made the kind of scope selections I have made.   But I don't care what he thinks.  It is irrational to get so personal in attacking another person's equipment choices.  I just know when JimP described those attacks about APO's that he has directed those kinds of attacks at me by means such as those mentioned by Jon Isaacs.   But that's fine.  I have zero interest in writing a book of my own to respond.  Such an argument would be a complete waste of ink and paper - and any passages in his book that go into that nonsense are as well. 

 

I'm sure the book overall is very entertaining and does have a lot of good information.  Neil is a very eloquent writer - just very insistent that his narrow perspective on certain topics is the "correct" perspective, and very intolerant of those that disagree. 


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