This new history of astronomy, in the form of an encyclopedia, is a welcome addition to the literature of astronomy. Many of the histories that have been published are now long out of print. Although those early histories are still useful, this volume brings together, in a very readable and pleasant format, much information scattered among several publications. The unique quality of this work is its five-pronged approach to presenting information.
The first approach, which takes up most of the book, is a historical overview of astronomy. Ancient and medieval periods are covered, but the focus is on the beginnings of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century to the present. The second approach looks at astronomy as it fits into various national contexts. For example, the reader will find key entries for astronomy in France or Russia or Great Britain, describing milestones of astronomical accomplishments in each of those countries.
Observatories are obviously very important in a history of astronomy. There are entries for all of the national observatories as well as many of the leading private research institutions and universities. As another access point, the fourth approach provides the social history of astronomy. There are entries covering topics such as women in astronomy, literature in astronomy, and the Catholic Church and astronomy. Finally, as a sixth approach, the encyclopedia includes numerous biographical entries. The biographies are brief , with several bibliographic references to more extensive biographies.
This is an excellent encyclopedia that is easy to use. There are a limited number of illustrations, all in black and white, but they are crisp and clear. The text, with two columns per page, is very user-friendly from a visual standpoint. Within each entry, words, phrases, or names may be boldfaced, indicating there is an entry elsewhere in the book. Every entry has at least one cited reference, and many have more than 20. A general index is included.
This encyclopedia is highly recommended for college libraries and for public libraries and high-school libraries that need information beyond that provided by general encyclopedia sets. It should become a standard reference volume, filling a niche in the reference collection as the initial, first-stop source on astronomical topics.