From Reviews of the First Edition
"I was completely delighted with Bob Bless's new book. It
strongly addressed the two most serious needs I perceive in the
standard menu of introductory astronomy texts: a better treatment
of history and more use of mathematics."
-Joe Patterson, Columbia University
"The text is an excellent synthesis of an enormous topic
that is presented in a clear, very readable fashion and provides
interesting reading along the way."
-Meteoritics & Planetary Society
"If you know your way around the sky, then Bob Bless's
entertaining exposition of the nuts and bolts behind the scenes
should add an extra dimension to your observations; if you don't,
like me, then here is an incentive to get outside, tonight, and
have a look."
"This is a very solid astronomy text for undergraduate
students. It is a scholarly introduction to a popular science
elective. Its depth, rigor and accuracy make it the 1990
successor to the famous 60s and 70s texts of George Abell...The
materials on the history of astronomy are the best I have seen in
any textbook on astronomy."
-Charles J. Lada, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
"An extremely well-written text. All of astronomy is
presented here, in a comprehensive and up-to-date text. The art
is excellent, and the text is uniformly well-written. The
combination of a significant quantitative content and a liberal
arts perspective makes it ideal."
-Kenneth Janes, Boston University
From Reviews of the Second Edition
"Astronomy is a big
subject, spanning the multi-billion light-year extent of the cosmos, and the
entirety of human history. It's no easy task to encapsulate all this in a single
text. The new edition of Bob Bless's book provides the best all-around
treatment of the subject that I've found at the undergraduate level, including a
thorough yet concise survey of astronomy's rich history, as well as rigorous but
accessible explanations of diverse astrophysical phenomena. It's an
-John Blakeslee, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
"This is an excellent
book. It is also different. It offers a clear alternative choice
over its competitors."
-Joe Miller, Lick Observatory
This new edition of
Discovering the Cosmos by R.C. Bless is the best liberal arts introduction
to astronomy available. Its emphasis is on understanding
rather than memorizing the science. Bless
includes a generous historical account in his text. And despite the
limited use of explicit mathematics, this book provides excellent coverage of
the science. The problem sets, observation projects, and
references are excellent. Discovering the Cosmos has
been my favorite introductory astronomy text since the first edition hit the
-Richard Hilt, Colorado College
Based on the very popular liberal arts course Bob Bless has
taught at University of Wisconsin for many years, this
book provides a rich, historical approach to introductory
astronomy. It is ideal for use in an introductory astronomy
course for nonmajors. In the fifteen years since the first edition of this text
was published, several new concepts such as dark matter, dark energy, and
an incredible expansion of the universe (inflation) have been developed.
Furthermore, many of the exotic effects predicted by General Relativity
(e.g. black holes, warped space) have gone from being interesting theoretical
speculations to useful practical tools for understanding the universe. This
book aims to give an overview of astronomy, but in such a way that the
non-science major can get a feeling for how science actually developed with its
false starts and wrong turns, which observational evidence eventually corrected,
and also to describe the incredible recent developments in our understanding of
the physical universe. Several
chapters of this 2nd edition have been extensively revised to include
these recent developments.
Because it has become increasingly difficult to “cover” all of astronomy in a one-semester course, this edition has largely omitted coverage of the physical nature of the objects in our, and other, planetary systems, although a discussion of the possibility of life elsewhere closes the book.
About the Author
After receiving his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Michigan, Robert C. Bless spent his career at the Astronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a member of the Wisconsin group responsible for planning and operating the payload in the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, the first successful stellar space observatory. He was later involved in technical studies in support of what became the Hubble Space Telescope, and his proposal for a high speed photometer became one of the first-generation space instruments in the Hubble Space telescope. Bless served on many NSF and NASA administrative and review panels and was the first Chair of the Gemini Board of Directors. Over a long career of teaching, he became increasingly interested in the historical origins of astronomical concepts, ideas, and techniques, and integrated many of these in his teaching of elementary survey courses in astronomy and in this book.