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The Sun Kings:
The Unexpected Tragedy of Richard Carrington and the Tale of How Modern Astronomy Began
Stuart Clark

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"Stuart Clark's The Sun Kings is a compelling account of how astronomers came to understand solar flares, sunspots, and magnetic storms. It is also a vivid portrait of the scientific climate of a vanished era.... The Sun Kings is an excellent and fast-paced read for anyone interested in astronomy, history, or human drama, as well as important context for understanding some of the reasons Earth's climate changes over time."--Melissa A. Barton,

"The Sun Kings uncovers much of the history of how we came to understand how solar flares and associated phenomena can wreak havoc on Earth.... This is popular science history told with rare accuracy and enough intrigue to keep the reader entertained."--Neil Bone, Astronomy Now

"Each story is told with the clarity required to keep the non-expert engrossed and the stories are entertaining and genuinely fascinating."--Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

"Simply telling the history of scientific solar observations and the beginnings of modern astronomy and making the writing a page-turner would be a difficult feat, but Clark does it superbly. This is not a dry scientific chronology but a story of real men and women who had lives beyond the science they performed.... Well-written and well-researched with a thorough bibliography and index."--M.V. Golden, Choice

"The all-powerful, infinitely fragile nexus between Earth and its sun drives Stuart Clark's riveting study of astronomer Richard Carrington, dubbed the Sun King by his 19th-century English peers. Carrington's specialty was sunspots and solar flares, but the real drama here is off-telescope."--Tony Maniaty, The Australian

"Stuart Clark's The Sun Kings is a lively, informative discourse on the research that led to a discovery that in Victorian times was revolutionary: a cause-and-effect relationship between events on the Sun and Earth. Although the book is biographical, the science is not secondary: The characters and their research are skillfully interwoven in the narrative. The inclusion of the discoveries and personas of so many of the pioneers of Victorian astrophysics will make Clark's book an enjoyable and meaningful read for anyone, professional physicist and layperson alike, who has an interest in the roots of physics and astronomy...Clark is writing for a popular science audience who will enjoy his lively and eminently readable account of the lives and scientific careers of those whose work furthered the understanding of the Sun-Earth connection."--Richard C. Canfield, Physics Today

"What a delight! This is an enthralling account of the personal lives of the scientists who first demonstrated the Sun's dominant influence over Earthly affairs and laid the foundation for modern astronomy and astrophysics. This is a fast-moving, accurate, and fascinating story of diverse personalities, their families, ambitions, hopes, and struggles, their passion for knowledge, for awards, positions and recognition, and the inevitable roles that pride, greed, jealousy, and resentments played in deciding the tragedies, fame and fortune of the founders of modern astronomy."--Manuel K. Oliver, Twenty-first Century Science and Technology

"Run, don't walk, to your nearest . . . store to buy The Sun Kings. . . . It is a remarkable book."--Jeff Kuhn, Nature Physics

"This is a fascinating and fast-paced narrative."--Allan Chapman, The Observatory

"Clark's engaging and authoritative account of the early years of solar-terrestrial science will he especially valuable as an introduction to space weather for undergraduates and beginning graduate students. It will also appeal more generally as a first-rate scientific detective story involving flesh-and-blood characters."--Edward W. Cliver, Space Weather Quarterly

"Clark's style of popular historical storytelling effectively conveys the personal, interpersonal, and political aspects of scientific lives and work. He creates clear and interesting nontechnical explanations for solar phenomena and researchers' methods and analyses. Both general and academic readers should appreciate how his narrative demonstrates the multigenerational nature of solar astronomy and relates the contemporary importance of accurate verbal and artistic descriptions of natural phenomena. . . . [T]here can be little doubt that the history of science and public science education both stand to benefit immensely from hybrid forms of historiography like Clark's."--Pamela Gossin, Isis

"Stuart Clark's eminently readable book . . . although aimed at a broad audience, is also useful for the specialist. . . . The significance of coincidences and chance in research, as well as the personal side of science, is well described for the general public. It is highly recommended reading."--Béla Kálmán, Solar Physics

"Solar astronomy is truly a multigenerational science and its beginnings are brilliantly summarised in Stuart Clark's story, built around the greatest magnetic storm ever recorded. . . . The tale is lively, informative and often compelling."--Keith Mansfield, Plus Magazine


"In this sprightly and spirited narrative, a few determined scientists set out to correlate the pattern of dark spots on the Sun's face with the igniting of earthly aurora, the interruption of telegraph (later satellite) transmissions, and even the price of wheat in England. Of course, the world thought them mad. The 'sun kings,' as Stuart Clark so aptly names these pioneers, persevered through ridicule, animosity, and personal tragedy to forge a link across space and fathom the true nature of the Sun. I found myself captivated by the characters, the colossal problems they tackled, and the stunning conclusions they finally reached. I commend Clark for combining so many interesting ideas into a single, fast-paced, beautifully crafted story."--Dava Sobel, author of Longitude, Galileo's Daughter, and The Planets

"Herein lies the tale of intrepid astronomers, across time and cultures, who were the first to observe, identify, and document our misbehaving Sun. But by the time you are done, you realize that the story's main protagonist--the one with all the personality-is not any one of the scientists, but the Sun itself. A delightful, informative read."--Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, author of Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

"Stuart Clark illuminates the dawn of astrophysics by tracing the rise and fall of Richard Carrington, the man who first glimpsed how events on the Sun affect our lives on Earth. No faceless automatons, the scientists in this tale blend a passion for their work with the more worldly passions of pride, jealousy, greed, and lust."--Robert P. Kirshner, Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University

"Stuart Clark's The Sun Kings is undoubtedly the most gripping and brilliant popular-science history account that I have ever read. It is informative, accurate, and relevant. Clark's ability to write so vividly makes me seethe with jealousy."--Owen Gingerich, author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus

"Clark tells a gripping story with several intersecting personal dramas that make unexpectedly exciting reading for a book with such a substantial academic theme. I learned a thing or two about how it was first realized and then proved--over the objection of the powerful Lord Kelvin--that the magnetism thrown off the Sun reaches the Earth. Those not familiar with the overall story will benefit even more from the discussion and analysis."--Jay M. Pasachoff, coauthor of The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium

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File created: 4/21/2017

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