American Eclipse
“A timely tale of science and suspense.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)In the scorching summer of 1878, with the Gilded Age in its infancy, three tenacious and brilliant scientists raced to Wyoming and Colorado to observe a rare total solar eclipse. One sought to discover a new planet. Another—an adventuresome female astronomer—fought to prove that science was not anathema to femininity. And a young, megalomaniacal inventor, with the tabloid press fast on his heels, sought to test his scientific bona fides and light the world through his revelations. David Baron brings to three-dimensional life these three competitors—James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison—and thrillingly re-creates the fierce jockeying of nineteenth-century American astronomy. With spellbinding accounts of train robberies and Indian skirmishes, the mythologized age of the last days of the Wild West comes alive as never before. A magnificent portrayal of America’s dawn as a scientific superpower, American Eclipse depicts a young nation that looked to the skies to reveal its towering ambition and expose its latent genius.“Baron brilliantly presents these three pioneers, their ambitions, and their struggles. As America again prepares to experience solar totality, Baron transports us to a remarkable moment that brought a nation together to witness the wonders of the heavens.”—Booklist (starred review)“This fascinating portrait of the Gilded Age is suffused with the peculiar magic and sense of awe that have always attended eclipses, those fraught few minutes when day becomes night, time stands still—and anything seems possible.”—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Thunder and In the Kingdom of Ice“Brilliantly researched and beautifully crafted, American Eclipse conveys historical discoveries and scientific obsessions with the verve and excitement of a work of fiction.”—John Pipkin, author of The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

American Eclipse Details

TitleAmerican Eclipse
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherLiveright
ISBN1631490168
ISBN-139781631490163
Number of pages352 pages
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Science, Historical

American Eclipse Review

  • RMazin
    June 3, 2017
    Where is the author of American Eclipse? This August, if he is not on a book tour, he will be heading to Wyoming to witness a total solar eclipse in the US. David Baron has a “case of total solar eclipse fever.” Who can blame him after reading his engaging account of the US solar eclipse in 1887? It was the beginning of the Gilded Age and the end of the Civil War. There were disputed Presidential elections, European elitism, a skepticism of science and innovation, superstition, fake news, warrin Where is the author of American Eclipse? This August, if he is not on a book tour, he will be heading to Wyoming to witness a total solar eclipse in the US. David Baron has a “case of total solar eclipse fever.” Who can blame him after reading his engaging account of the US solar eclipse in 1887? It was the beginning of the Gilded Age and the end of the Civil War. There were disputed Presidential elections, European elitism, a skepticism of science and innovation, superstition, fake news, warring scientists, a mission to empower women, and an inventor seeking backing, acceptance and publicity. Does any of this sound familiar?Baron focuses on James Craig Watson, an astronomer who wants to find more heavenly bodies and gain recognition from his European brethren and American competitors. What better time to ferret out the location of possible planets than when the skies are darkened to reveal its secrets? Maria Mitchell is an astronomer whose sights are not only set on the solar eclipse but on what it would mean for a woman to make more scientific discoveries by gazing upward. Denigrated in pay and prestige, although eminently qualified, Maria wants to succeed and translate this success into women’s’ voting rights – and its 1887! Thomas Alva Edison hopes to use this event to promote his expertise as an inventor, thereby gaining recognition and backing for further inventions. Meanwhile, he often proclaims his success before it can be verified. Lastly, there was Cleveland Abbe, who would later be seen as the founder of the National Weather Service. His ordeal of observing the eclipse from Pike’s Peak was another highlight of this remarkable book.Is it too late to book a room along the path of the 2017 US solar eclipse? Maybe, but that wouldn’t have stopped those who journeyed to Colorado and Wyoming using rail and mules. So do the next best thing and read this book. Highly recommended.Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and recommend this book
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  • Stephanie Sanders
    June 30, 2017
    I'm not an astronomer by any stretch of the word, but I do hold a special fondness for the night sky and for anyone, amateur or otherwise, who studies it. Here are some of my fondest moments: My dad, ushering us outside, watch held up high, counting down the seconds until a satellite streaks overhead. The first one to spot it won - though the prize, a dim feeling that you knew the universe best, had communed with it somehow - was intangible. Laying with my sister in the middle of the road (somet I'm not an astronomer by any stretch of the word, but I do hold a special fondness for the night sky and for anyone, amateur or otherwise, who studies it. Here are some of my fondest moments: My dad, ushering us outside, watch held up high, counting down the seconds until a satellite streaks overhead. The first one to spot it won - though the prize, a dim feeling that you knew the universe best, had communed with it somehow - was intangible. Laying with my sister in the middle of the road (something our dad didn't entirely approve of) and watching the Perseid meteor shower on an August night, counting shooting stars (the goal: over a hundred), getting scared out of our minds when sounds came from the nearby underbrush. Listening to my dad recount the pure wonder of watching the moon landing on television.So, the upcoming "Great American Eclipse" on August 21, 2017, which, as it happens, is also our first wedding anniversary, is something I expect to add to that litany of astronomical wonders I hold dear. However, I don't really know much about eclipses, and I refuse to show up to a party unprepared, which is how I ended up reading American Eclipse by David Baron.This is the story of the 1878 eclipse that shadowed much of the American west. Scientists, spurred on by a rivalry with Europe, flocked to the dusty, ramshackle railroad towns in the line of totality, hoping to find something to cement their places in history. They encountered Native Americans, women aiming to prove that they had a place in science, horrid weather, and a lot of big egos. I found the interpersonal relationships mentioned in this book almost as interesting as the science itself. I felt fully immersed in the Victorian setting, which, I found, I didn't know as much about as I thought I did! I had no idea what the average person's perception of science was, how people of different classes traveled long distances, how newspapers functioned, all of it! I was surprised by Thomas Edison's involvement and reputation among scientists and truly enjoyed the descriptions of the west. I might even give a Western a chance - there's just something appealing about it. This is one of the most informative books I've read in a long time.Even if you're not an umbraphile (a person who loves and chases solar eclipses), this book is a well-written and fascinating glimpse into a formative period of American history.www.bookpuke.com
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  • John Lybrand
    June 14, 2017
    This book tells the story of the total solar eclipse that occurred in the U.S. in 1878. The author uses this event, which happens soon after the American Civil War, not only to describe the eclipse, but to examine the changes happening in society at this time. He does this by covering different groups of people that go west to observe the event. First, are the scientists. The American astronomers of the day felt they had something to prove to their more prominent European counterparts. One was i This book tells the story of the total solar eclipse that occurred in the U.S. in 1878. The author uses this event, which happens soon after the American Civil War, not only to describe the eclipse, but to examine the changes happening in society at this time. He does this by covering different groups of people that go west to observe the event. First, are the scientists. The American astronomers of the day felt they had something to prove to their more prominent European counterparts. One was intent on using the eclipse to find planet Vulcan, a planet orbiting the sun inside the orbit of Mercury. The most famous participant was a 31 year old Edison. He's just invented the phonograph, and while still three years away from the light bulb, he is already wildly popular. Edison easily attached himself to a scientific expedition, and even brought along a new invention to measure the heat of the solar corona. A sub-group of that is a group of female scientists from Vassar. They were denied spots on any official expedition, so they formed their own female-only group and headed to Denver. The author weaves these stories together, and mixes in the adventure aspect of an expedition to the American frontier. I recommend this book, not just to those interested in eclipses, but to anyone interested in historical adventures.
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  • Argum
    May 10, 2017
    I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads. Wonderfully engaging story of the eclipse of 1878 and the scientists who were there watching. Published in preparation for another American occurrence of this phenomenon, the author has witnessed 4 in various points of the globe in various comfort levels and has a deep appreciation for the beauty and specialness of this event that really comes through in the writing. We follow a few leading scientists, an arrogant planet hunter, a woman I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads First Reads. Wonderfully engaging story of the eclipse of 1878 and the scientists who were there watching. Published in preparation for another American occurrence of this phenomenon, the author has witnessed 4 in various points of the globe in various comfort levels and has a deep appreciation for the beauty and specialness of this event that really comes through in the writing. We follow a few leading scientists, an arrogant planet hunter, a woman trying to overcome bias, Thomas Edison and the sagas of their lives and after the eclipse. I literally see the Detroit Observatory that was home base for the planet hunter during this time from my office and had never heard of him nor realized that he is buried somewhere in the cemetery next door. Really neat to learn about Watson this way - as his arrogance lead to endowed medals in the sciences. Learned a great deal about science, America and eclipses.
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  • Camela
    June 26, 2017
    I have to admit to giving up on this book. It was recommended as a summer read, but it put me to sleep to many times for me to finish it. It has a lot of information, but didn't quite bring the people to life for me. It is an interesting premise, and as there is another complete solar eclipse happening in my neck of the woods this summer, I thought it might be fun to find out about another and its historical significance. I learned a lot about how observance of eclipses in the 1800s contributed I have to admit to giving up on this book. It was recommended as a summer read, but it put me to sleep to many times for me to finish it. It has a lot of information, but didn't quite bring the people to life for me. It is an interesting premise, and as there is another complete solar eclipse happening in my neck of the woods this summer, I thought it might be fun to find out about another and its historical significance. I learned a lot about how observance of eclipses in the 1800s contributed to what we know about the sun. That was fascinating. But overall, the book didn't have what it takes to keep me awake.
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  • Barb Groth
    June 30, 2017
    Could barely put this book down ... perhaps because the eclipse in August is to come through our backyard in Wyoming ... perhaps because it was fascinating to read about the evolution of scientific discoveries in America. At any rate, I learned a lot about the various eclipses and now am really looking forward to August 21st, 2017.
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  • Cleokatra
    June 30, 2017
    As an amateur historian and a professional scientist, with a PhD in spectroscopy, this book was a perfect blend of my interests. I'm used to working with very sophisticated equipment. I'm impressed with the sorts of measurements that were achieved with basic equipment in such an undeveloped setting.
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  • Sandy
    June 30, 2017
    Good mix of history and science with three different protagonists.
  • Rebecca Lowery
    June 18, 2017
    Wish I could give it 4.5 stars.
  • Heather Goss
    May 18, 2017
    I read an advanced copy to review and excerpt for Air & Space magazine. I thoroughly enjoyed the story of all these different parties on their quest to view the 1878 total solar eclipse. The rest of my thoughts and a short excerpt are here: http://www.airspacemag.com/daily-plan...
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  • Charlene
    April 1, 2017
    Well done! Baron divides the story between 3 and a 1/2 (I'm giving the mini-saga of Cleveland Abbe at Pike's Peak some credit here too :-) ) principles: an ambitious inventor, a somewhat dodgy astronomer obsessed with finding a new planet, and a woman astronomer determined to prove women were the equal or better of any man of science--bent on observing the first total solar eclipse of the modern era visible across large parts of the US. There's plenty of suspense, a good bit of history, a tasty Well done! Baron divides the story between 3 and a 1/2 (I'm giving the mini-saga of Cleveland Abbe at Pike's Peak some credit here too :-) ) principles: an ambitious inventor, a somewhat dodgy astronomer obsessed with finding a new planet, and a woman astronomer determined to prove women were the equal or better of any man of science--bent on observing the first total solar eclipse of the modern era visible across large parts of the US. There's plenty of suspense, a good bit of history, a tasty helping of science, and some wonderful character studies here. A nice appetizer to the eclipse due across America later this year!
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