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Extended Audio Sample Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens, by Andrea Wulf Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (106 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Andrea Wulf Narrator: Robin Sachs Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system, but only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world, only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies. Fortunately, transits of Venus occur in pairs: eight years later, the scientists would have another opportunity to succeed.

Chasing Venus brings to life the personalities of the eighteenth-century astronomers who embarked upon this complex and essential scientific venture, painting a vivid portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the volatile international politics that hindered them at every turn. In the end, what they accomplished would change our conception of the universe and would forever alter the nature of scientific research.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Outstanding…It’s the book of the year so far—do not miss it!”

    Astronomy Now

  • “Another fine example of such scientific storytelling…Narrated with elegant expertise.”

    Times (London)

  • “The 18th century stargazers whom Andrea Wulf describes…would put Indiana Jones to shame…Here is a book both astrophysicists and poets can enjoy.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “A thrilling adventure story…Wulf’s marvelous eye for detail and talent for simplifying complex science make the book…well worth reading”

    Denver Post

  • “Enlightening Enlightenment fare.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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  • Excellent. . . . Chasing Venus is beautifully paced, alternating between expeditions, with lush descriptions of the often arduous journeys involved. Owen Gingerich, Nature
  • Outstanding. . . . It’s the book of the year so far—do not miss it! Ian Welland, Astronomy Now
  • Andrea Wulf has now chronicled the 18th-century transit expeditions in a narrative light on astronomical detail but rich in personalities and adventures. The race was the 1760s version of reality TV — a cross between Amazing Race and Survivor. People waited to see which astronomers would make it and which wouldn’t, and to learn whether all the time and money was worth it. Wulf doesn’t entirely resolve that question, but she does wonderfully sketch the race for scientific, and patriotic, glory. Alexandra Witze, Dallas Morning News
  • Another fine example of such scientific storytelling. . . . Narrated with elegant expertise. Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
  • The 18th century stargazers whom Andrea Wulf describes . . . would put Indiana Jones to shame. . . . Here is a book both astrophysicists and poets can enjoy. Matthew Price, The Boston Globe
     
  • Chasing Venus is [a] thrilling adventure story. . . . Wulf’s marvelous eye for detail and talent for simplifying complex science make the book, timed for release a month before the last transit of this century, well worth reading before June. Ann Levin, The Denver Post
  • [An] enthusiastic account. . . . With the next transit predicted for June 6, 2012, Wulf’s well-handled history arrives in a timely manner. Booklist
  • [Wulf] clearly explains how Venus’ transit across the sun, which occurs every 105 years (and each time does so twice, at eight-year intervals—one will occur in June 2012), gave Enlightenment astronomers a chance to figure out such things as the distance between the earth and the sun. . . . Enlightening Enlightenment fare. Kirkus, starred review

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Margaret | 12/16/2013

    " This is my kind of science/history book - what homeschool folk call "living books" - interesting, well-written, telling an important story. Science-y but not hard science. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Vivian | 11/25/2013

    " Interesting book on the first large international scientific collaboration. The author did a good job of keeping everyone easy to follow, as the large cast of scientists went around the globe. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jason | 7/9/2013

    " Great book. Fast read, good stuff. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Lori | 6/26/2013

    " It was just ok...too many players to get to know so it came off a little text-bookish for me. Might have been better to read than listen. "

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