This book is a historical account of how natural philosophers and scientists have endeavoured to understand the universe at large, first in a mythical and later in a scientific context. Starting with the creation stories of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the book covers all the major events in theoretical and observational cosmology, from Aristotle's cosmos over the Copernican revolution to the discovery of the accelerating universe in the late 1990s. It presents cosmology as a subject including scientific as well as non-scientific dimensions, and tells the story of how it developed into a true science of the heavens.
Contrary to most other books in the history of cosmology, it offers an integrated account of the development with emphasis on the modern Einsteinian and post-Einsteinian period. Starting in the pre-literary era, it carries the story onwards to the early years of the 21st century.
1. From Myths to the Copernican Universe
2. The Newtonian Era
3. Foundations of Modern Cosmology
4. The Hot Big Bang
5. New Horizons
Helge Kragh is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, where his main field of research is the history of modern physical science. In this area he has published a biography of Paul Dirac (1990) and Quantum Generations (1999), a survey of twentieth-century physics. The main result of his interest in cosmology is Cosmology and Controversy, a book on the steady state model and its rivalry with Big Bang theory. More recently, he has focused on the interaction between cosmology and religion, which was the subject of Matter and Spirit in the Universe from 2004.
"With clarity and grace, Kragh fits a tremendous mass of facts, ideas, and interconnections into this slim volume intended for students, general readers, and interconections into this slim volume intended for students, general readers, and scholars in sciences and humanities."
- Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, volume 37, part 2
"Conceptions of Cosmos is aimed at a relatively broad audience, though some background in the physical sciences will be used for the 20th-century sections. The book will certainly be enjoyed by working scientists and historians of science; its superb overview of the history of cosmology is unrivalled in terms of reliability and range of coverage."
- Physics Today, January 2008
"Kragh...writes with engaging clarity and insight. His book is thought-provoking and enlightening, a joy from beginning to end. Essential reading..."
- Times Higher Education Supplement