Review of The Oxford Handbook of the History of Modern Cosmology edited by Helge Kragh & Malcom Longair

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 139, 1272, 219–222 (October 2019)


This is a book review of The Oxford Handbook of the History of Modern Cosmology, edited by Helge Kragh & Malcom Longair. Edited by a leading historian of cosmology and a leading astrophysical cosmologist (or cosmological astrophysicist), this is a survey of modern cosmology, though one could argue that almost all of the history of cosmology which is directly relevant to current cosmology falls within the timespan covered. Kragh also wrote three chapters and Longair three-and-one-half. Five additional authors (slightly more historians of science than scientists, though of course most are both to some degree) wrote a chapter each, and one has a chapter of his own and one co-authored with Longair. Although the preface mentions "approximately 1860" as the beginning of modern cosmology, the first chapter actually starts considerably earlier. In cosmology, the history of the subject is perhaps more entwined with the subject itself than is the case with other fields. As such, it makes sense to include two chapters on dead ends, namely various alternative theories, with an entire chapter devoted to the steady-state theory. Though somewhat too large for a literal handbook, it is still compact enough to be read almost anywhere, which I highly recommend.


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