A science journalist explores the ways different cultures celebrated the majesty and mysteries of the night sky and how the experience and the thoughts it has engendered have radically shaped human civilization across millennia.
Marchant elucidates key moments of mathematical, technological, artistic, and scientific ingenuity, and profiles intriguing visionaries. Ultimately, Marchant considers the mysteries of consciousness and expresses concern over the implications of our separation from the stars. In a tour de force on par with Sapiens (2015), by Yuval Noah Harari, Marchant argues that we need to experience the awe evoked by the unveiled night sky so that we, once again, feel profoundly connected to the cosmos and, more crucially, to earthly life, which is precious, vulnerable, and in our care.
... Marchant [gives] spirited and well-researched overviews of mankind’s long history of trying to understand the cosmos in art, religion, and the first budding steps of science. Those overviews are uniformly superb; Marchant is gifted at telling the stories of artists, prelates, and especially the scientists of earlier centuries. And the book keeps its focus squarely on the many ways all of that understanding, both flawed and sound, filtered outward to ordinary people, always attempting to draw direct connections between the wider world of nature and the intimate world of each individual ... Too often for comfort, she resorts to straw men ... If there’s a benefit to be reaped by taking that rational approach and mixing in some irrationality just to retain a version of the awe or wonder that the Babylonians had four thousand years ago, The Human Cosmos doesn’t make any convincing case for it.