Reviews

PRAISE FOR AMERICAN ECLIPSE

“Baron is a self-professed umbraphile, or eclipse chaser. He's also a science writer who's just written a suspenseful narrative history about the last total solar eclipse to cross North America in the summer of 1878. . . . The total eclipse itself lasted about three minutes, the same span of time predicted for the upcoming August 21 eclipse. But Baron makes those three minutes seem transcendent.”
Maureen Corrigan (NPR's Fresh Air)

“Just as astronomers pieced together fragmentary observations of the 1878 eclipse to synthesize knowledge of the heavens, Mr. Baron has combed through scientific journals, newspapers, and two dozen archives to unravel the threads of American history that met there. The result is a sweeping, compelling portrait of the scientific and social aspirations of Gilded Age Americans.”
Wall Street Journal

“Science journalist Baron (The Beast in the Garden) shares a timely tale of science and suspense in this story of rival Gilded Age astronomers contending with everything from cloudy skies to train robbers to observe the historic total solar eclipse of July 29, 1878. . . . With the first total solar eclipse to cross the U.S. in 99 years set to occur in late August 2017, this engrossing story makes an entertaining and informative teaser.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

American Eclipse vividly traces the journeys of three larger-than-life figures intent on making their mark during less than three minutes on that gusty July day. . . . With a wealth of choice details about their lives, Baron brilliantly presents these three pioneers, their ambitions, and their struggles. As America again prepares to experience solar totality, Baron transports us to a remarkable moment that brought a nation together to witness the wonders of the heavens.”
Booklist (starred review)

“The stories of these three enterprising scientists reflect the ambition and intellectual curiosity of the United States in the late-nineteenth-century, when the country was trying to cement its place in the international scientific community.”
New York Times

American Eclipse is an incredibly well written work of non-fiction. It is clearly the result of considerable research and careful thought. And it tells a great story. If you are heading across the pond to see this summer's total solar eclipse, this book is essential reading. Make sure you have a copy in your hand luggage.”
BBC Sky at Night Magazine (book of the month for August 2017)

“In vivid detail, Baron unfolds [the scientists'] backstories and reveals what led each of them to make their way to the still unsettled Wild West to view this phenomenon. . . . American Eclipse will undoubtedly spur scores of readers to desire their own total solar eclipse experience.”
BookPage

“Baron tells a lively tale that places eclipse science in the historical context of the Wild West. . . . There’s the brutality of a frontier lynching, the annoyance of lost railway luggage and the beauty of the astronomical event itself.”
New Scientist

“Baron’s book does a wonderful job weaving together these accounts of early American ingenuity as the scientists headed west, determined to prove their prowess during two minutes of darkness.”
Air&Space Magazine

“Captivating . . . . As Baron capably and enthusiastically shows, the solar eclipse of 1878 proved to be an important moment in the emergence of American science. . . . A timely, energetic combination of social and scientific history in anticipation of the total solar eclipse predicted for Aug. 21, 2017.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The total solar eclipse of 1878 shapes this riveting account of the rise of scientific research in the United States. . . . [Baron] perfectly captures the sense of awe one feels during a total eclipse. His wonderful account of the reactions of both scientists and the public almost 140 years ago should inspire readers to find an observing location for the 2017 solar eclipse.”
National Science Teachers Association (recommended)

“Baron, an award-winning journalist, uses exhaustive research to reconstruct a remarkable chapter of U.S. history. He tells the surprising story of how the eclipse spurred three icons of the 19th century . . . to trek into the wild Western frontier to observe it.”
Scientific American

“Baron’s love of these rare and spectacular events is plain, reinforced explicitly in the epilogue, which breathes fresh air into the historical narrative with the author’s account of his own eclipse chases.”
Science

“If you are at all interested in early American scientific endeavors of astronomy (and a bit about early meteorology), 'American Eclipse,' is a fun, five-star read.”
Psychology Today

“Baron spins a historical tale of the scientific personalities of the era, focused on three researchers who traveled to Colorado and Wyoming to witness totality for very different reasons. . . . [A] deeply researched and original contribution to this year's eclipse literature.”
Dallas Morning News

American Eclipse's most vivid character. . . is the fledgling West itself. In 1878, the region lingered in a kind of limbo: civilized enough that you could journey to Wyoming in a railcar hung with chandeliers, wild enough that your train stood a considerable risk of being boarded and cleaned out by bandits.”
High Country News

“Baron has succeeded in writing an enjoyable and informative book that should inspire more people to make sure they don't miss this month's total eclipse—and, perhaps, thereby create more umbraphiles.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“‘American Eclipse’ is a social story dressed in scientific garb, more This American Life than Scientific American. . . . Baron breaks down the science with a patience learned from three decades in public radio.”
Denver Post

“Well timed for publication in advance of the August 21, 2017, total eclipse viewable across much of the heartland, American Eclipse is an enjoyable and informative read. It lionizes the ambitious and courageous pursuit of scientific knowledge demonstrated by its subjects, and reminds us of a time when the American public supported the pursuit of scientific knowledge as an expression of patriotism and national pride.”
H-Net Reviews

“Edison is one of the three historical figures whom author and former NPR science correspondent David Baron tracks through his new nonfiction book. . . . In his riveting account, Baron shows his ability to wade through slews of historical documents (which take 64 pages to credit at the end of the book) to bring the figures to life.”
Salt Lake Tribune

“'American Eclipse' by David Baron is the perfect book to peruse before Nebraskans enter the acute stage of umbra-mania (eclipse obsession) prior to our total solar eclipse later this month. . . . The book will enhance the viewing experience of any citizen planning to turn his or her eyes skyward on Aug. 21.”
Lincoln Journal Star

“The focus on the people makes Baron’s book as much social history as a story of astronomy, with more attention on what went on down here than up there.”
Jackson Hole News & Guide

“Longtime science writer Baron, himself a world-traveling umbraphile, presents a splendid account of that day and of the scientists—including Thomas Edison and Maria Mitchell, one of the first female astronomers—who documented the event.”
Yale Alumni Magazine

“Baron mingles the excitement, aspiration and drama of these events with a good dose of technical information and scientific history. . . . This is a wonderful, dramatic piece of scientific history, and a fine companion for eclipses to come.”
Shelf Awareness

“'American Eclipse' tells an irresistible history of American ingenuity and intellectual maturation during the Gilded Age. The action culminates in less than three minutes on the Wyoming and Colorado frontier.”
Steamboat Today

“[G]ives us a brilliant, vivid rendering of the times. The Eclipse may have happened out West but its observers came from the East and their journeys often had their origins in events that took place years before. . . . It’s the best kind of true history account that entertains as much as it educates.”
Woman Around Town

“Baron is an engaging writer, and this is an easy book in which to get lost. The characters seem to come alive, and the rivalries are expertly portrayed in a way that gives life to people who are sometimes relegated to mythic stature in other works. . . . In August, Bowling Green will have its own American eclipse. ‘American Eclipse’ is a wonderful book to read in conjunction with that event.”
Bowling Green Daily News

“[C]heck the deeply researched, thoroughly readable book just out from David Baron. . . . The book centers on the total solar eclipse of July 29, 1878, and those who sought to learn and build their résumés from it. It also gives a cultural accounting of the time that ranges from white civilization’s treatment of Native Americans, to the academic disregard of women, to the building of the nation as a scientific force.”
St. Joseph News-Press

“In this delightfully readable work of science history, we see an ardent young republic testing its intellectual prowess on the world stage. Baron has chosen just the right moment, and peopled it with just the right characters. This fascinating portrait of the Gilded Age is suffused with the peculiar magic and sense of awe that have always attended eclipses, those fraught few minutes when day becomes night, time stands still—and anything seems possible.”
—Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of Blood and Thunder

“Brilliantly researched and beautifully crafted, American Eclipse conveys historical discoveries and scientific obsessions with the verve and excitement of a work of fiction. David Baron’s vivid prose captures the wonder of an era in which modern astronomy was just beginning to reveal our connection to a vast universe beyond our own small world.”
—John Pipkin, author of The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

“David Baron contracted an incurable case of ‘umbraphilia’ twenty years ago in Aruba. Fortunately for readers, Baron’s fever stokes his account of the first great American eclipse, in 1878, while priming us for the next one—and the next, and the next.”
—Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and The Glass Universe

“Enthralling . . . A marvelous dramatic narrative of an important and revealing episode in late-nineteenth-century American science. It lucidly melds science, ambition, policy, technology, the interplay of personality and practice, and the immediacy of experience. The book is marked by wonderful, eye-opening surprises.”
—Daniel Kevles, author of The Physicists

“In exceptionally clear and interesting prose, Baron brings nineteenth-century personalities to life, showing how men and, unusually, an astronomy-professor woman of that time observed the total solar eclipse of 1878. . . . His book carries across the spirit of eclipse watching that millions of Americans can gain by observing the 2017 total eclipse.”
—Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College

“A suspenseful and dramatic account of the rival scientific expeditions that came to the American West to view and study this rare phenomenon. . . . Baron enables us to understand what drew them to the eclipse and what this episode tells us about the changing role of science in American culture.”
—Paul Israel, author of Edison: A Life of Invention

“Total eclipses of the Sun are among the most wondrous spectacles in the heavens.  With American Eclipse, David Baron beautifully captures the awe, the magic, and the mystery of one particular eclipse, an event in 1878 that spurred on America to embrace the sciences. A superb contribution to the history of astronomy.”
—Marcia Bartusiak, author of The Day We Found the Universe, Black Hole, and Einstein's Unfinished Symphony