Books et al.Astronomy

The Sun spotters

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 137
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8300

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The total solar eclipse that would sweep across the western United States on 29 July 1878 was an opportunity for the nation’s scientists to prove their prowess, both to themselves and to a Europe dismissive of the country’s scientific potential. A host of scientists and inventors fill David Baron’s American Eclipse, but the story follows three main players: Maria Mitchell, Thomas Edi­son, and James Craig Watson. Unfortunately, these intrepid Americans did not suc­ceed in using the eclipse to “win the glory of the world.” The book is thus a story of the in­evitability of failure in scientific pursuits, as opposed to the altogether rarer success sto­ries.