Book review of "Milestones of Astronomy"
The author's eleven milestones (reasonably not highlights) prove that the history of astronomy, with its diverse touches and connections with other fields of knowledge, can be interesting and not without tension. The well-structured content, with its engaging and interesting headings, forms an interesting mosaic of historical development.
The extensive content ranges from the celestial cults of prehistoric times to the latest research results and the limits of our knowledge. The historian of science and philosopher is less concerned with a chronological outline than with gaining knowledge, as the somewhat idiosyncratic, yet well thought-out and reader-friendly diction of the book proves.
The author is adept at presenting certain lines of development and important highlights of the astronomical path of knowledge.
The book is characterized by the fact that it not only deals with the most important research results and the most important scholars. It also goes into detail about the social environment and background information, character traits and motivations of scientists that have had a lasting impact on knowledge generation and research. In addition to the important scholars, the merits of the less well-known are also recognized (Gerbert von Aurillac, later Pope Sylvester II, and Hermann von Reichenau). This includes amateurs such as Wilhelm and Caroline Herschel and Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, as well as women active in astronomy (Sophie Brahe, Maria Cunitia, Margarethe Hevelius).
Starting with archaeoastronomy, the author knows how to deal with this complicated subject on a factual basis and avoids exaggerated interpretations. The astronomy of antiquity is introduced with a plea for the geocentric world view and the difficult struggle for an explanation of the celestial phenomena is shown. How easy and simple is it to judge the tedious acquisition of knowledge from the current state of knowledge. The time soon followed when, with the translations from Greek into Arabic and Latin, the ancient and Islamic cultures synthesized, laying the foundations for occidental-medieval astronomy.
With the achievements of Islamic scholars and other important researchers, it is absolutely justified to speak of "the not at all dark Middle Ages". Johannes de Sacrobosco (died in 1256) is particularly mentioned, who with his work "Sphaera" a fundamental book of astronomy.
The time without telescopes of the "sophisticated minds", the masters of instrument making, such as Bürgi, Apian, Schöner u.a.is discussed in detail. Copernicus, the canon of Frauenburg, also fell into this period with his revolutionary teachings. With his new world system, the conflict with the theologians developed in Galileo's time, which is de alt with objectively and convincingly here.
The author knows how to make the steps from milestone to milestone entertaining and exciting through small episodes and statements by the personalities mentioned. The book is recommended for readers interested in the history of astronomy, for teachers and for high school students. Unfortunately, the 20th century comes up short and could have been expanded by a few more pages.