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The Glass Universe - Book Review

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by Meiri S (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer, living in Melbourne. I enjoy uncovering hidden in plain sight gems.
Published January 16th 2018
The history of the women who measured the stars
2018 Penguin Random House


The Glass Universe is the story of the origins of astronomy in America in the late 19th Century. It is a great read. I hadn't Dava Sobel's other books, Longitude and Galileo's Daughter, but I will now.

Dava Sobel's writing is the result of well-researched history. The book is historical fiction. Her writing engages you from the outset by giving a great context of the astronomers at the time. Initially, I thought that the book was very much focussed on the men of American astronomy. But as it went on, the importance and focus of American women in early astronomy becomes more apparent. Her writing highlighted contemporary issues of the day regarding pay parity and career choices.

If quotes are your thing, this book is full of them. Here is one of my favourites.

"He seems to think that no work is too hard for me, no matter what the responsibility or how long the hours. .... let me raise the question of salary and I am immediately told that I receive an excellent salary as women's salaries stand. ... Sometimes I am tempted to give up and let him try someone else, or some of the men to do my work, in order to have him find out what he is getting for $1500 a year from me, compared with $2500 from some of the other male assistants. Does he ever think that I have a home to keep and a family to take care of as well as the men?"

This quote reflects current and contemporary women's issues. Remarkable that this is still the case 100 years on.

This is a great book for women wanting to support other women, and for men who want to know the origins of American astronomy and find out about the women behind it.

A great read for anyone interested in astronomy, computing, maths and the physical sciences. It also leads into the film Hidden Figures.
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Why? historical fiction
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