Starborn: How the Stars Made Us (and Who We Would Be Without Them)

Basic. Nov. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781541674776. $30. SCI
What does society owe the stars? Trotta (astrophysics, Imperial Coll., London; The Edge of the Sky) asks this question as he charts human connection with the night sky. He says that first, the heavens stood in as an explanation for natural phenomena, as the home of gods in cultures all over the globe. Later, throughout human history, the stars played a vital role in timekeeping and navigation. Astronomy was the first science, as observation led to mathematics and a scientific method; a growing understanding and measuring of the universe led to technologies that underpin institutions and societies. Meanwhile, for individuals, astrology shows people how to see the stars in themselves. Trotta weaves in thought experiments between historical chapters; he describes an alternate world, Caligo, and imagines how different human history might be if people lived under a perpetually cloudy sky and were not guided by the stars.
VERDICT This mesmerizing history of stargazing looks both back into the past and forward. An excellent recommendation for thoughtful and curious readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing