History 135C
Department of History
University of California, Irvine


I constructed this website to accompany "Exploring the Cosmos", a course on the History of Astronomy that I was privileged to teach at UCI from 1996 until my retirement in 2008.  I developed the website to serve as a reference and resource for my students.  Their insightful comments, questions, and suggestions helped shape its content and structure over the years. 

I hope the information and ideas you find on these pages will both satisfy and further stimulate the curiosity that led you here.

Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker
E-mail:   bjbecker@uci.edu

Chapel Hill, April 2010

Time and space --
the stuff of when and where.
Sly spiders weave your fabric
with subtle sturdy threads
that trap the now and then and here and there.

Sublime the trace --
the sum of all we share.
Why's wonders frame our rubric
with flimsy fragile schemes
that map the here and now and then -- and dare.


Week 1.  The Ancients
  1.   Celestial Seasons
  2.   From Chaos to Cosmos
Reading:  Week 1 Readings
Crowe, pp. 1-65 and 197-219
Week 2.  The Copernican Revolution
  3.   A Matter of Aesthetics
  4.   The Copernicans
Reading:  Week 2 Readings
Crowe, pp. 66-135
Week 3.  The Three Chief World Systems
  5.   Shattering the Crystalline Spheres
  6.   Uncovering the Cosmic Blueprint
Reading:  Week 3 Readings
Crowe, pp. 136-155; Galileo, Starry Messenger
Week 4.  Galileo
  7.   The Starry Messenger
  8.   The Message from the Stars
Reading:  Week 4 Readings
Crowe, pp. 156-196; Galileo, Letters on Sunspots; Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina
Week 5.  The Age of Enlightenment
  9.   The Clockwork Universe
10.   Time and Place
Reading:  Week 5 Readings
Sobel, chs. 1-10
Week 6.  The Golden Age of Positional Astronomy
11.   Seeing Old Things in New Ways
12.   Putting Newton's Laws to Work
Reading:  Week 6 Readings
Sobel, chs. 11-15
Week 7.  The New Astronomy
13.   Star Stuff
14.   The Riddle of the Nebulae
Reading:  Week 7 Readings
Berendzen, et al., Section I
Week 8.  Cosmological Questions
15.   Redshift, Blueshift
16.   Measuring Cosmic Distances
Reading:  Week 8 Readings
Berendzen, et al., Section II
Week 9.  The Great Debate
17.   Discovering the Milky Way
18.   The Expanding Universe
Reading:  Week 9 Readings
Berendzen, et al., Section III
Week 10.  Innovators and Mavericks
19.   The Martian Canals Controversy
20.   The Redshift Controversy
Reading:  Week 10 Readings
Berendzen, et al., Section IV

Richard Berendzen, Richard Hart and Daniel Seeley, Man Discovers the Galaxies

Michael Crowe, Theories of the World from Antiquity to the Copernican Revolution

Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo

Dava Sobel, Longitude