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

  • Memory and mental time travel 25 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Join Nicola Clayton and Clive Wilkins at the Hay Festival.
  • Random walk to graphene 25 May 2015 at Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales Andre Geim talks to Roger Highfield at the Hay Festival.
  • Are you seeing clearly? 26 May 2015 at The Royal Society, London CafĂ© Scientifique exploring the future of light on earth.

For more events please see the events diary.