David Baron

discusses

American Eclipse:
A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World

This event includes a book signing

Date

Jun
9
Friday
June 9, 2017
7:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning journalist and former NPR correspondent DAVID BARON for a discussion of his book, American Eclipse: A Nation's Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World.

About American Eclipse

Richly illustrated and meticulously researched, American Eclipse ultimately depicts a young nation that looked to the skies to reveal its towering ambition and expose its latent genius.

On a scorching July afternoon in 1878, at the dawn of the Gilded Age, the moon’s shadow descended on the American West, darkening skies from Montana Territory to Texas. This rare celestial event—a total solar eclipse—offered a priceless opportunity to solve some of the solar system’s most enduring riddles, and it prompted a clutch of enterprising scientists to brave the wild frontier in a grueling race to the Rocky Mountains. Acclaimed science journalist David Baron, long fascinated by eclipses, re-creates this epic tale of ambition, failure, and glory in a narrative that reveals as much about the historical trajectory of a striving young nation as it does about those scant three minutes when the blue sky blackened and stars appeared in mid-afternoon.

In vibrant historical detail, American Eclipse animates the fierce jockeying that came to dominate late nineteenth-century American astronomy, bringing to life the challenges faced by three of the most determined eclipse chasers who participated in this adventure. James Craig Watson, virtually forgotten in the twenty-first century, was in his day a renowned asteroid hunter who fantasized about becoming a Gilded Age Galileo. Hauling a telescope, a star chart, and his long-suffering wife out west, Watson believed that he would discover Vulcan, a hypothesized "intra-Mercurial" planet hidden in the sun’s brilliance. No less determined was Vassar astronomer Maria Mitchell, who—in an era when women’s education came under fierce attack—fought to demonstrate that science and higher learning were not anathema to femininity. Despite obstacles erected by the male-dominated astronomical community, an indifferent government, and careless porters, Mitchell courageously charged west with a contingent of female students intent on observing the transcendent phenomenon for themselves. Finally, Thomas Edison—a young inventor and irrepressible showman—braved the wilderness to prove himself to the scientific community. Armed with his newest invention, the tasimeter, and pursued at each stop by throngs of reporters, Edison sought to leverage the eclipse to cement his place in history. What he learned on the frontier, in fact, would help him illuminate the world.

With memorable accounts of train robberies and Indian skirmishes, David Baron’s page-turning drama refracts nineteenth-century science through the mythologized age of the Wild West, revealing a history no less fierce and fantastical.

Praise

"David Baron contracted an incurable case of umbraphilia twenty years ago in Aruba. Fortunately for readers, Baron’s fever stokes his account of the first great American eclipse, in 1878, while priming us for the next one—and the next, and the next." —Dava Sobel, author of The Glass Universe

"In this delightfully readable work of science history, we see an ardent young republic testing its intellectual prowess on the world stage. Baron has chosen just the right moment, and peopled it with just the right characters. 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, times stands still—and anything seems possible." —Hampton Sides, New York Times best-selling 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. David Baron's vivid prose captures the wonder of an era in which modern astronomy was just beginning to reveal our connection to vast universe beyond our own small world." —John Pipkin, author of The Blind Astronomer's Daughter

David Baron
David Baron

David Baron

David Baron, an award-winning journalist, is a former science correspondent for NPR and former science editor for the public radio program The World. An incurable umbraphile whose passion for chasing eclipses began in 1998, he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Photo credit: Cathy Koczela

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

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FAQ:

Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

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Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
General Info
(617) 661-1515
info@harvard.com

Media Inquiries
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Accessibility Inquiries
access@harvard.com

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