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American eclipse : a nation's epic race to catch the shadow of the moon and win the glory of the world /

by Baron, David [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York, N.Y. : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, [2017]Edition: First edition.Description: xii, 330 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm.ISBN: 9781631490163; 1631490168.Subject(s): Watson, James C. (James Craig), 1838-1880 | Mitchell, Maria, 1818-1889 | Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 | Science -- United States -- History -- 19th century | Science -- United States -- History -- 20th century | United States -- Civilization -- 1865-1918 | Eclipses -- History | Astronomy -- United States -- History -- 19th century | Astronomy -- United States -- History -- 20th century | Science -- United States -- History -- 19th century | Science -- United States -- History -- 20th century | Biographies
Contents:
Prologue : shall the sun be darkened -- Part one. 1876. Reign of shoddy -- Professor of quadruplicity -- Nemesis -- "Petticoat parliament" -- Part two. 1878. Politics and moonshine -- The wizard in Washington -- Sic transit -- "Good woman that she are" -- Show business -- Part three. 1878. Among the tribes of uncivilization -- Queen city -- Nature's editor -- Old probabilities -- Part four. 1878. Favored mortals -- First contact -- Totality -- American genius -- Part five. 1878-1931. Ghosts -- Shadow and light -- Epilogue : tendrils of history.
Summary: On a scorching July afternoon in 1878, at the dawn of the Gilded Age, the moon's shadow descended on the American West, darkening skies from Montana Territory to Texas. This rare celestial event--a total solar eclipse--offered a priceless opportunity to solve some of the solar system's most enduring riddles, and it prompted a clutch of enterprising scientists to brave the wild frontier in a grueling race to the Rocky Mountains. Science journalist David Baron, long fascinated by eclipses, re-creates this epic tale of ambition, failure, and glory in a narrative that reveals as much about the historical trajectory of a striving young nation as it does about those scant three minutes when the blue sky blackened and stars appeared in mid-afternoon. American Eclipse animates the fierce jockeying that came to dominate late nineteenth-century American astronomy, revealing the challenges faced by three of the most determined eclipse chasers who participated in this adventure. James Craig Watson, virtually forgotten in the twenty-first century, was in his day a renowned asteroid hunter who fantasized about becoming a Gilded Age Galileo. Hauling a telescope, a star chart, and his long-suffering wife out west, Watson believed that he would discover Vulcan, a hypothesized "intra-Mercurial" planet hidden in the sun's brilliance. No less determined was Vassar astronomer Maria Mitchell, who--in an era when women's education came under fierce attack--fought to demonstrate that science and higher learning were not anathema to femininity. Despite obstacles erected by the male-dominated astronomical community, an indifferent government, and careless porters, Mitchell courageously charged west with a contingent of female students intent on observing the transcendent phenomenon for themselves. Finally, Thomas Edison--a young inventor and irrepressible showman--braved the wilderness to prove himself to the scientific community. Armed with his newest invention, the tasimeter, and pursued at each stop by throngs of reporters, Edison sought to leverage the eclipse to cement his place in history. What he learned on the frontier, in fact, would help him illuminate the world.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

<p>In the summer of 1878 three ruthless and brilliant scientists raced to Wyoming and Colorado to observe a total solar eclipse. One sought to discover a new planet. Another fought to prove that science was not an anathema to femininity. And a young, megalomaniacal inventor sought to test his bona fides and light the world through his revelations.</p> <p>David Baron brings to life these three competitors--James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell and Thomas Edison--re-creating the jockeying of nineteenth-century astronomy. With accounts of train robberies and Indian skirmishes, the last days of the Wild West come alive. A magnificent portrayal of America's dawn as a superpower, American Eclipse depicts a nation looking to the skies to reveal its ambition and expose its genius.</p>

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Prologue : shall the sun be darkened -- Part one. 1876. Reign of shoddy -- Professor of quadruplicity -- Nemesis -- "Petticoat parliament" -- Part two. 1878. Politics and moonshine -- The wizard in Washington -- Sic transit -- "Good woman that she are" -- Show business -- Part three. 1878. Among the tribes of uncivilization -- Queen city -- Nature's editor -- Old probabilities -- Part four. 1878. Favored mortals -- First contact -- Totality -- American genius -- Part five. 1878-1931. Ghosts -- Shadow and light -- Epilogue : tendrils of history.

On a scorching July afternoon in 1878, at the dawn of the Gilded Age, the moon's shadow descended on the American West, darkening skies from Montana Territory to Texas. This rare celestial event--a total solar eclipse--offered a priceless opportunity to solve some of the solar system's most enduring riddles, and it prompted a clutch of enterprising scientists to brave the wild frontier in a grueling race to the Rocky Mountains. Science journalist David Baron, long fascinated by eclipses, re-creates this epic tale of ambition, failure, and glory in a narrative that reveals as much about the historical trajectory of a striving young nation as it does about those scant three minutes when the blue sky blackened and stars appeared in mid-afternoon. American Eclipse animates the fierce jockeying that came to dominate late nineteenth-century American astronomy, revealing the challenges faced by three of the most determined eclipse chasers who participated in this adventure. James Craig Watson, virtually forgotten in the twenty-first century, was in his day a renowned asteroid hunter who fantasized about becoming a Gilded Age Galileo. Hauling a telescope, a star chart, and his long-suffering wife out west, Watson believed that he would discover Vulcan, a hypothesized "intra-Mercurial" planet hidden in the sun's brilliance. No less determined was Vassar astronomer Maria Mitchell, who--in an era when women's education came under fierce attack--fought to demonstrate that science and higher learning were not anathema to femininity. Despite obstacles erected by the male-dominated astronomical community, an indifferent government, and careless porters, Mitchell courageously charged west with a contingent of female students intent on observing the transcendent phenomenon for themselves. Finally, Thomas Edison--a young inventor and irrepressible showman--braved the wilderness to prove himself to the scientific community. Armed with his newest invention, the tasimeter, and pursued at each stop by throngs of reporters, Edison sought to leverage the eclipse to cement his place in history. What he learned on the frontier, in fact, would help him illuminate the world.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface (p. xi)
  • Prologue: Shall the Sun Be Darkened (p. 1)
  • Part 1 1876
  • Chapter 1 Reign of Shoddy (p. 9)
  • Chapter 2 Professor of Quadruplicity (p. 19)
  • Chapter 3 Nemesis (p. 27)
  • Chapter 4 "Petticoat Parliament" (p. 34)
  • Part 2 1878
  • Chapter 5 Politics and Moonshine (p. 45)
  • Chapter 6 The Wizard in Washington (p. 60)
  • Chapter 7 Sic Transit (p. 70)
  • Chapter 8 "Good Woman That She Are" (p. 80)
  • Chapter 9 Show Business (p. 89)
  • Part 3 1878
  • Chapter 10 Among the Tribes of Uncivilization (p. 105)
  • Chapter 11 Queen City (p. 119)
  • Chapter 12 Nature's Editor (p. 133)
  • Chapter 13 Old Probabilities (p. 150)
  • Part 4 1878
  • Chapter 14 Favored Mortals (p. 167)
  • Chapter 15 First Contact (p. 175)
  • Chapter 16 Totality (p. 183)
  • Chapter 17 American Genius (p. 197)
  • Part 5 1878-1931
  • Chapter 18 Ghosts (p. 207)
  • Chapter 19 Shadow and Light (p. 221)
  • Epilogue: Tendrils of History (p. 231)
  • Notes on Sources (p. 239)
  • List of Illustrations (p. 283)
  • Select Bibliography (p. 289)
  • Acknowledgments (p. 309)
  • Index (p. 317)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Instead of looking at the broader phenomenon of eclipses in general, this title focuses on a single eclipse, that of 1878. Baron (The Beast in the Garden) highlights the experiences of three observers of that event: Maria Mitchell, James Craig -Watson, and Thomas Edison. Other individuals and scientific details are woven into the narrative as it moves the central figures toward the day of the eclipse. Throughout, the book depicts the United States as a young country striving to achieve parity with Europe on the intellectual stage. Many American astronomers saw the 1878 eclipse as a chance to demonstrate to the world what America could do for science. Watson was hoping to discover a new planet to win recognition for this country and himself. Mitchell led an all-female expedition to Colorado to show that women could contribute, too. And although Edison's experiments during the eclipse had no lasting impact on history or astronomy, Baron tells a compelling tale about the inventor. All of these figures also appear in John Dvorak's Mask of the Sun but only briefly. -VERDICT Best for readers who are getting their technical details elsewhere yet enjoy a good story about science. [Prepub Alert, 1/9/17.]-Cate Hirschbiel, Iwasaki Lib., Emerson Coll., Boston © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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