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Book review: "The Georgian Star" by Michael D. Lemonick

MBO has an extensive library which is available to members and one member, Martin Mebalds, has kindly taken the time to review a title that he has been reading.

The Georgian Star by Michael D. Lemonick - review by Martin Mebalds - shelved under Astronomy History

This book is not about the discovery of Uranus by William Herschel, although the book does cover the discovery.  It’s not about Caroline Herschel, William’s sister who surpassed Charles Messier by many thousands in discovering and cataloguing nebulae, although that is also covered.

The book is about the beginnings of modern techniques in the study of astronomy. While cataloguing stars sand double stars, it’s about a musician who turned to astronomy in his thirties, and though untrained in astronomy, with original thinking made his mark.  He not only swept the skies cataloguing stars with his own telescopes, he built them and they were the best made anywhere at the time.  The story is also about team work and women in science at the time, how they were treated and how Caroline defied the odds and made her own significant contributions to astronomy. She was the one that documented all William’s 8,760 observations and calculated all of their coordinates.  This was the start of the star catalogues astronomers rely on today.

The book is also about the progress of science in general, the progress in thinking and the many stumbles along the way.  For example, William Herschel believed that most planets and the moon were inhabited because ‘why would god go to all that trouble if it weren’t populated?’

This book is a treat to read, it’s full of surprises and insights about the progress of science and the early beginnings of cosmology.  I have only given a small sample of the discoveries made by these two wonderful 18th century astronomers. Less than 200 pages, it is suitable for any astronomy enthusiast from teens to nonagenarians and beyond!