How can we measure the distance to a star? Beginning in ancient Greece, history's greatest scientific minds applied themselves to the problem in vain. Not until the nineteenth century would three men, armed with the best telescopes of their age, race to conquer this astronomical Everest. Parallax tells the fast-moving story of their contest, which ended in a dead heat. Against a sweeping backdrop filled with kidnappings, dramatic rescue, swordplay, madness, and bitter rivalry, Alan W. Hirshfeld brings to life the heroes -- and heroines -- of this remarkable chapter in history. Characters include the destitute boy plucked from a collapsed building who grew up to become the world's greatest telescope maker; the hot-tempered Dane whose nose was lopped off in a duel over mathematics; a merchant's apprentice forced to choose between the lure of money and his passion for astronomy; and the musician who astounded the world by discovering a new planet from his own backyard. Generously illustrated with period engravings and paintings, Parallax is an unforgettable ride through time and space.
Alan W. Hirshfeld, an award-winning astronomer at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, earned his undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Princeton and his Ph.D. in astronomy from Yale. He is a coauthor of "Sky Catalogue 2000.0," a two-volume astronomical reference book, and a past winner of a Griffith Observatory/Hughes Aircraft Company national science writing award. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts.