Chasing Venus: the race to measure the heavens

New York Times Best Selling and award-winning author Andrea Wulf tells the extraordinary story of the first global scientific collaboration set amid warring armies, hurricanes, scientific endeavour and personal tragedy. On 6 June 1761 and 3 June 1769 the planet Venus passed between earth and sun – each time visible as a small black dot.

Transits of Venus always arrive in pairs – eight years apart – but then it takes more than a century before they are seen again. In the 1760s the world’s scientific community was electrified because the transit would allow them for the first time to calculate the distance between the planets in our solar system.

At a time when war was tearing Europe and much of the rest of the world apart, hundreds of astronomers overcame political, geographical and intellectual boundaries to work together. For a decade the Royal Society was gripped by transit fever, organising viewings and expeditions to farflung corners of the globe, including Captain Cook’s Endeavour voyage to Tahiti.

Chasing Venus: the race to measure the heavens 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

Events coming up

  • The next big thing 29 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Four Royal Society Research Fellows discuss their work at the forefront of science at the Hay Festival.
  • Stuff matters 31 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Join award winning author Mark Miodownik at the Hay Festival.
  • Elements, genomes and ecosystems: cascading nitrogen and phosphorus impacts across levels of biological organisation 01 June 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Theo Murphy international scientific meeting organised by Professor Andrew Leitch, Professor Maurine Neiman, Professor Dag Hessen, Professor Puni Jeyasingh, Professor Lawrence J. Weider and Dr Ilia Leitch

For more events please see the events diary.