Wednesday, July 26, 2017

American Eclipse by David Baron

American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron --- 330 pages including Notes on Sources, Footnotes, Select Bibliography, Acknowledgements and Index.

Published in anticipation of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse scheduled to cross the continental United States from northwest to southeast, this book (based on extensive research) looks at the social and scientific significance of the total solar eclipse of July 29, 1878 across the far western pioneer states and territories of the U.S. at the dawn of America's Gilded Age.

The nascent scientific establishment of the U.S. of that day, mostly centered in the colleges and universities of the east, was eager to assert the bona fides of American scientists at a time when Europe set the standard for scientific achievement. American scientists seized on the "American" eclipse as their opportunity to show what they could do.

A number of scientific parties traveled west to observe and make records of the eclipse, at a time when travel beyond Ohio was uncomfortable and travel west of St. Louis haphazard and primitive.  Baron focuses most of his attention on four parties: The U.S. Naval Observatory camp at Cravens in the Wyoming Territory; James Craig Watson of the University of Michigan and the inventor Thomas Alva Edison and other august observers at Rawlins in the Wyoming Territory; astronomer Maria Mitchell of Vassar College with a party of former students in Denver, Colorado; and the U.S. Army Signal Corps (first national weather forecasting service) camp on Pike's Peak, Colorado.

Baron writes both intelligently and entertainingly about the resulting adventure, and how scientists were not above making use of the popular press to whip up enthusiasm for the event. Even citizens with little or no understanding of astronomy or physics took a keen interest in the idea of America showing up the rest of the world.

Click HERE to read a review from Publishers Weekly.

Click HERE to read a review from Kirkus Reviews.

Click HERE to read a review from the Denver Post.

Click HERE to listen to an interview with author David Baron on St. Louis Public Radio.

Click HERE to watch a video of Author David Baron talking about his book and the August 21 eclipse to come from Vimeo.

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