Owen Gingerich | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Owen Gingerich 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

In his 1959 history of early astronomy, The Sleepwalkers, Arthur Koestler notoriously labeled Copernicus's De revolutionibus "the book nobody read." The Polish astronomer's landmark 16th-century work, which proposed that the earth revolves around the sun, was so difficult, argued Koestler, that it was ignored in its day, even by astronomers. But when Harvard historian of science Owen Gingerich came across a heavily annotated copy of the tome in Edinburgh's Royal Observatory, he decided to challenge Koestler's view and embarked on a 30-year quest to track down and personally examine each of the nearly 600 known extant first and second editions of the rare work. The result of his odyssey, The Book Nobody Read (Walker & Company), is as much memoir as science. An astrophysicist and rare book collector himself, Gingerich was definitely the man for the job. With rigorous sleuthing and a rarefied list of contacts, he discovers copies owned--and annotated--by the likes of Galileo, Kepler, and Tycho Brahe, and determines to his satisfaction that Koestler was "dead wrong." Still, a Greek epigram on the title page of De revolutionibus translates as "Let no one untutored in geometry enter here," and a similar caveat applies to The Book Nobody Read--it'll appeal mainly to history buffs, astronomy fans, and bibliophiles. If you're not a member of those clans, there's some tough sledding ahead. Gingerich will discuss his work at 6 PM on Thursday, April 8, at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, 312-255-3700.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
September 24
Galleries & Museums
August 20

Popular Stories