Skip to main content Accessibility help
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2017
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

Galaxies are known as the building blocks of the universe, but arriving at this understanding has been a thousand-year odyssey. This journey is told through the lens of the evolving use of images as investigative tools. Initial chapters explore how early insights developed in line with new methods of scientific imaging, particularly photography. The volume then explores the impact of optical, radio and x-ray imaging techniques. The final part of the story discusses the importance of atlases of galaxies; how astronomers organised images in ways that educated, promoted ideas and pushed for new knowledge. Images that created confusion as well as advanced knowledge are included to demonstrate the challenges faced by astronomers and the long road to understanding galaxies. By examining developments in imaging, this text places the study of galaxies in its broader historical context, contributing to both astronomy and the history of science.


'As one of the world’s leading astronomers, Jean-René Roy provides us with an insightful and readable account of the use of images to distinguish between deep-sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies. What makes this an exceptional work is the level to which Roy, as a practitioner, engages with historians of science in developing his rich account. This engagement leads to a unique book, one that will be indispensable to understanding the significant role played by images in the history of twentieth century science.'

Omar Nasim - Universität Regensburg, Bavaria

'Unveiling Galaxies examines the role of ‘transformational images’ in the history of astronomy. Images are a tool of discovery, and this book brings attention to the ground-breaking images behind some of the greatest discoveries in astronomy. The book also highlights the role of galaxy atlases in astronomy as well as the lives of the people who made these images and how their work impacted the progress of astronomy. I found that telling the story of the discovery of galaxies by focussing on iconic images is an excellent approach to the subject. Unveiling Galaxies is informative, well-written, and well-researched, and provides a superb read of the process of discovery in science.'

Ronald J. Buta - University of Alabama

'In this beautifully clear, reflective, and almost non-mathematical book, Jean-René Roy explains how we came to understand that galaxies are the building blocks of the universe. Roy is an accomplished galaxy researcher who takes us on this long and fascinating journey with its many challenges, from the perspective of developments in scientific imaging of galaxies. The story is based on images, starting with sketches of galaxies made from visual observations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book describes how the gradual improvement in the quality of the images led to the understanding that galaxies are very distant objects, lying far outside the Milky Way.'

Kenneth Freeman - The Australian National University

'Roy’s unique contribution goes beyond tracing the development of making images of galaxies to examine their compilation into atlases. Roy’s underlying motivation for this work is personal; his own exploration of a gift of an atlas of galaxies sparked his interest in science and astronomy. With the descriptions of the characters who contributed to the progress of understanding galaxies the author reminds us that science is a human activity. This book touches on the highlights of how images proceeded from eye and hand to photographic and lately electronic record.'

Nancy Levenson - Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore

'Noted Canadian astronomer Jean-René Roy assumes a dual role of science writer and historian to create Unveiling Galaxies. He chronicles the history and study of galaxy images, from the hand-drawn sketches of early telescopic observers to modern-day digital images obtained using the Hubble Space Telescope and the latest generation of ground-based giant reflectors. … Roy is most concerned with atlases of galaxies and how they are used, especially in classifying galaxy types. In this area, the work of 20th-century astronomers - notably Edwin Hubble and Allan Sandage - is discussed in depth. A second central theme of the text is how galaxy types may inform the ways in which galaxies evolve. … Roy consulted a vast array of published sources, extending well beyond the astrophysics literature and quotes from personal correspondence with many consulting experts. The book comes equipped with an excellent bibliography and a fine index.'

S. P. Maran Source: Choice

Refine List

Actions for selected content:

Select all | Deselect all
  • View selected items
  • Export citations
  • Download PDF (zip)
  • Save to Kindle
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Save to Google Drive

Save Search

You can save your searches here and later view and run them again in "My saved searches".

Please provide a title, maximum of 40 characters.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Book summary page views

Total views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between #date#. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.