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Cosmic Noise


  • 132 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 574 pages
  • Size: 246 x 189 mm
  • Weight: 1.38 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521765244)

  • Published December 2009

Available, despatch within 1-2 weeks

$196.00 (C)

Providing a definitive history of the formative years of radio astronomy, this book is invaluable for historians of science, scientists and engineers. The whole of worldwide radio and radar astronomy is covered, beginning with the discoveries by Jansky and Reber of cosmic noise before World War II, through the wartime detections of solar noise, the discovery of radio stars, lunar and meteor radar experiments, the detection of the hydrogen spectral line, to the discoveries of Hey, Ryle, Lovell and Pawsey in the decade following the war, revealing an entirely different sky from that of visual astronomy. Using contemporary literature, correspondence and photographs, the book tells the story of the people who shaped the intellectual, technical, and social aspects of the field now known as radio astronomy. The book features quotes from over a hundred interviews with pioneering radio astronomers, giving fascinating insights into the development of radio astronomy. Woodruff T. Sullivan III has been awarded the 2012 Leroy E. Doggett Prize for Historical Astronomy.


1. Prologue; 2. Searching for solar hertzian waves; 3. Jansky and his star static; 4. Grote Reber: science in your backyard; 5. Wartime discovery of the radio sun; 6. Hey's army group after the war; 7.Radiophysics laboratory, Sydney; 8. Ryle's group at the Cavendish; 9. Lovell at Jodrell Bank; 10. Other radio astronomy groups before 1952; 11. Meteor radar; 12. Reaching for the moon; 13. The radio sun; 14. Radio stars; 15. Theories of galactic noise; 16. The 21-cm hydrogen line; 17. New astronomers; 18. A new astronomy; Appendixes; References; Index.


"...marvelous work ... well-written and extraordinarily thorough, and it contains everything you might want to know, and more. ... Sullivan has dug very deep to put this book together. Students, researchers, and historians of science interesting in radio astronomy will want to read Cosmic Noise to get a definitive history of the field." - Physics Today

"...a definitive chronicle of the cavalcade of breakthroughs that led to a new field of science ... Sullivan’s tome (exquisitely annotated for scholars) possesses an engaging style and is accessible to experts and novices alike." - IEEE Spectrum

"...a commendable job of assembling people, their memories, their publications, their instruments, and their institutions to give a solid overview of the early history of a diverse field." - Springer Science and Business Media

"..readers will appreciate the book for its close attention to the dynamics of discipline formation, others for the careful explanation of how a research tradition shifts from little science to big science... Sullivan’s care in constructing and cross-referencing bibliography and his index make any number of themes, figures, and developments readily available. The appendix on the techniques, advantages, and pitfalls of conducting oral history interviews is an excellent essay that anyone working in oral history should read....Cosmic noise is a fine book that deserves a broad readership." - Craig Sean McConnell, Journal for the History of Astronomy

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