Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens

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Viking, 1998 - Science - 198 pages
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The human race has not always lived in an infinite universe: for centuries, the earth spun at the center of a giant sphere, and the starlit dome of the night sky marked the ultimate boundary of the cosmos.The quirky tales of the men who pushed those heavenly limits further and further outward make up Seeing and Believing, Richard Panek's engaging and often amusing account of the telescope, and its significant role in revising humanity's perception of the universe. From Galileo's momentous achievement in 1609 and William Herschel (the musician-turned-astronomer who discovered Uranus) to the crazy brilliance of George Ellery Hale and the minds behind the mighty Hubble space telescope, Panek focuses on the often larger-than-life figures behind our cosmological odyssey. Seemlessly fusing elements of philosophy, politics, literature, and religion, Seeing and Believing chronicles the human mind as it contemplates an ever widening universe.

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Seeing and believing: how the telescope opened our eyes and minds to the heavens

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To cover 400 years of astronomy and its impact on society in six chapters is an impossible task. Nevertheless, Panek covers the watershed events (starting with Galileo constructing the first telescope ... Read full review

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In 1609, Galileo pointed his telescope up and took notes on what he saw. It was the first time a device was used to extend the senses. In this concise book, Panek shows not only how astronomy and astrophysics became sciences but also how discoveries in the sky lead to changes in philosophies – like kicking over the idea our planet as the center of the universe. Histories of science are sometimes chirpy or glib or ‘gee-whiz’ but Panek’s organization, style and tone are serious, vivid, comprehensible and pleasant to read. 


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About the author (1998)

RICHARD PANEK is the prize-winning author of "The 4% Universe" and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Science Writing.

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