Download e-book for iPad: Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics by M. T. Brück

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By M. T. Brück

Born in eire within the mid-nineteenth century, Agnes Mary Clerke completed status because the writer of A background of Astronomy throughout the 19th century. via her quarter-century profession, she turned the major commentator on astronomy and astrophysics within the English-speaking international. This biography describes not just the lifestyles and paintings of this impressive girl, but in addition chronicles the improvement of astronomy within the final many years of pre-Einstein technology. alongside the best way, it introduces some of the nice figures in astronomy of that age, together with Huggins, Lockyer, Holden, and Pickering.

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Sample text

Agnes Clerke’s usefulness as an Edinburgh reviewer was helped by her extraordinary gift for languages. The books under discussion might be in Latin, Greek, German, French, Italian or Spanish as well as English, in all of which she was fluent. An article in 1878, for example, entitled Gypsies, which was concerned with philology, involved eight books, five in German, two in French and one in English. Another, on the history of Albania, in 1881, included a publication in modern Greek. On one occasion, so Lady Huggins tells us, Agnes Clerke taught herself enough Portuguese in six weeks to be able to undertake a study of a batch of books in that language and afterwards to read with enjoyment the whole of the Luciad in the original.

While Ellen was especially drawn to early Italian poetry, Agnes made a special study of the philosophy and science of the Renaissance. In Florence, a city teeming with reminders of Galileo, her reading concentrated particularly on the life and work of that great scientist and of his contemporaries (the complete edition of the writings of Galileo by Eugenio Alberi was available to her, while researches by other scholars were in progress and appearing at the time). As far as is known, she carried out these profound researches entirely without help.

A contribution singled out for special praise was an article, left unsigned, which she took over from Cardinal Manning, entitled ‘The Destiny of Khartoum’, on the tragic death of General Gordon in 1885. The story of Gordon was preceded by an impressive review of the history of the Sahara from the tenth century, the colonisation of Africa generally, and the labours of missionaries in more recent times. 8 Within a year of joining the Dublin Review, Ellen published the first of her series of six wonderfully evocative articles, already mentioned, on aspects of Italian life and literature in the famous literary Cornhill Magazine.

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