BOOK NOTES: Yaffe’s ‘Astronomy & Cosmology’ Highlights Obscure Scientists Who Illuminated the Universe

BOOK NOTES: Yaffe's 'Astronomy & Cosmology' Highlights Obscure Scientists Who Illuminated the Universe

Phil Yaffe loves to write books that explain complicated subjects in a way that general readers can understand them. Best of all, he’s darn good at it. His latest book examines Astronomy and Cosmology.

“If your picture of an astronomer is a bespectacled scientist peering through a telescope to study things that have little or nothing to do with daily life, then prepare yourself for a surprise. Astronomy has a great deal to do with daily life — so much so that many of its achievements have become so integrated into daily life that we no longer even recognize them,” says Philip A. Yaffe, author of the new book “Astronomy & Cosmology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” (Available as a Kindle eBook from, $5.40) . “The same thing is true of cosmology,” he adds.

Cosmology or what might be called a world view directly or indirectly informs virtually everything we think and do, he explains.

Cosmology doesn’t deal simply with where the Earth is located in the universe and how we move around the Sun, but rather with how the universe is structured and why it should be that way. Some people are disinclined to call cosmology a science because for many it is too closely associated with religion. For others, it is a genuine science, with astronomy being one of its most productive tools.

“These two branches of human thought do not easily mix. The findings of astronomy, then interpreted by cosmology, have often run counter to what people want to believe and what their faith tells them to believe, so differences among them were bound to occur — and often raged for centuries.”

“Astronomy & Cosmology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” only skims the surface. Its objective is to provide reasonably well-rounded view of the astronomer and cosmology from ancient times to the present day. The objective is to introduce some of the key but somewhat obscure persons who made development of these two fundamental branches of human thought possible.

Most people, Yaffe says, know the names of a handful of ‘great scientists’ such as Aristotle, Archimedes, da Vinci, Newton, Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein. By contrast, most people have only vague knowledge or no knowledge of the phalanx of great scientists behind them who made their world-molding achievements possible.

“There are really many exciting stories to be told; many of these lesser-known scientists were very interesting individuals and their achievements more important than they are generally given credit for. As Newton himself remarked: ‘If I have seen far, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants’.”

“Astronomy & Cosmology” is the second of a new series of books aimed at bring better understanding of science in general and key aspects of certain sciences in particular to the lay public. The first book was titled “Human Biology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists”, also available from as a Kindle eBook.

As suggested by the title, each book in the “Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” series is be divided into two fundamental parts: 
· Brief explanations of major discoveries often little known or not fully appreciated by the general public.
· Brief biographies of the scientists generally credited with these lesser-known discoveries — if any single scientist can truly be credited with a discovery that may have been years, decades, even centuries in the making.

“Many of these scientists were polymaths, i.e. persons of great and varied learning. Some of them had a rapier wit and were skilled at turning a phrase. So as a bonus, a number of quotations associated with these scientists will also be presented,” Yaffe concludes.

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About the author


Philip Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.

He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974.

Books by this Author

· The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

· The Gettysburg Collection:
A comprehensive companion to The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional

· Actual English: English grammar as native speakers really use it

· Gentle French: French grammar as native speakers really use it

· What’d You Say? / Que Dites-Vous?
Fun with homophones, proverbs, expressions, false friends, and other linguistic oddities in English and French

· The Little Book of BIG Mistakes

· The Eighth Decade: Reflections on a Life

Books in “Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” Series

(at October 2012)

· Astronomy & Cosmology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists

· Human Biology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists

Books in “The Essential Ten Percent” Series

(at October 2012)

· College-level Writing: The Essential Ten Percent

· Logical Thinking: The Essential Ten Percent

· Public Speaking: The Essential Ten Percent

· The Human Body: The Essential Ten Percent

· Wise Humor: The Essential Ten Percent

· Word for Windows: The Essential Ten Percent

Editor’s note: To access essays by Philip Yaffe and reviews of his books by David M. Kinchen on this site, click:


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