An English Renaissance Astronomy Club? Shakespeare, Observation and the Cosmos

  • David H. Levy
  • Judy A. Hayden
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)


In the mid-1960s, Harlow Shapley (1885–1972), a renowned astronomer, observatory director and author, wrote of G-d’s interrogation of Job in Chapter 38 of the Book of Job. “This is no elementary quiz … I would call it a swift-moving doctoral oral.”1 To this ancient parable, Shapley gives a 1960s’ interpretation: a tortured man struggling to understand his relation to the cosmos. “Were you there,” the Almighty demands, “when I created the stars of the Pleiades or Orion?”2 The creation of a star is one of the most beautiful and violent events that our galaxy has to show. A long period of dark, impenetrable cloudiness is followed by a flash as the ignition of the nascent star takes place and begins nuclear fusion, which is the primary course of action of a star. At the end of the process of birth, the new star’s surrounding nebulosity, called a Bok globule after the astronomer Bart J. Bok (1906–1983), evaporates.


Early Modern Period American Philosophical Society Infinite Space Infinite Universe Famous Letter 
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© David H. Levy with Judy A. Hayden 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David H. Levy
  • Judy A. Hayden

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