Dante and the Early Astronomer: Science, Adventure, and a Victorian Woman Who Opened the Heavens

Tracy Daugherty. Yale Univ., $26 (232p) ISBN 978-0-300-23989-8
Daugherty, professor emeritus of English and creative writing at Oregon State University, combines literary analysis, history of science, travel writing, and astronomy to tell the story of Mary Evershed (1867–1949), a pioneering female astronomer fascinated with the poetry of Dante. He notes that, “more than any of her peers,” Evershed “grasped Galileo’s use of Dante’s art to advance his scientific notions.” At a time when women were all but excluded from professional astronomy, Daugherty observes that Mary, working with her husband, John Evershed, in India for 17 years, became “proficient with cameras and spectroscopes” and made significant contributions to the still-developing field. Her best-known work, Dante and the Early Astronomers, published in 1913, explored Dante’s use of astronomical imagery in The Divine Comedy and demonstrated just how accurate his descriptions were—some scientists now call the poet “astonishingly prescient.” Daugherty, by tracing his subject’s development as an astronomer and a literary scholar, does an impressive job of capturing the intellectual history of a fascinating woman who crossed disciplines and centuries of astronomical advances during her lifetime. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 04/08/2019
Release date: 04/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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