How Man First Saw The Earth
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Earth Rise, Earth, Ga E

Earthrise How man first saw the Earth

by Robert Poole.Earthrise, Earth Rise, Earth, Gaia, Apollo, Apollo 8, Apollo program, Apollo programme, Moon, landing, Moon landings, Robert Poole, Earth Day, Whole Earth Catalog, In the shadow of the moon, for all mankind, Blue marble, pale blue dot

The most important result of the space age was that mankind first saw the Earth. At Christmas 1968 the crew of Apollo 8 became the first people to journey to the Moon, and the first to behold the whole Earth. Their photo, 'Earthrise', changed mankind's view of itself. From the first pictures of the curved horizon to the modern eco-renaissance, Earthrise tells for the first time the story of the twentieth-century discovery of the Earth.

* Did Earthrise really take the astronauts by surprise?
* Was it the first picture of the Earth – and if not, what was?
* What effect did Earthrise have on the astronauts?
* What effect did it have on the world?
* How much does the rise of environmentalism owe to the space programme?

Earthrise recreates the extraordinary moment when mankind saw the Earth for the first time. At the apex of human progress the question was asked ‘where next?’ and the answer came: ‘home’. Apollo returned to Earth and environmentalism took off. Earthrise was the defining moment of the twentieth century. Here, for the first time, is a short history of the whole earth.

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arth Rise, Earth, Gaia, Apollo, Apollo 8, Apollo program, Apollo programme, Moon landing, Moon landings,
The Author
The Author, Robert Poole

Robert Poole is an independent historian, and also Reader in History at the University of Cumbria, and Associate of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester.


I am a mainstream historian with an interest in the cultural history of the first space age (1957-72), which I like to think gives me a wide-angle view of aspects of scientific progress that we tend to take for granted. My first book in this area was Earthrise: how man first saw the Earth (Yale, 2008) which looked at the first views of Earth from space: how they came to be taken, what their impact was, and the history of the idea of the whole Earth. It dealt with the unexpected connections between the space programme and the environmental movement.

2001: A Space Odyssey

My next space-related book is planned to be 2001: Space Odyssey and Space Age, a study of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark 1968 film. It’s been called the most scientifically accurate film ever and it represented some of the big ideas of the 1960s at their most optimistic: space travel, human evolution, extraterrestrial intelligence, and cybernetics. The recent opening of the Kubrick Archive allows us at last to understand this extraordinary film in its fullest context.

Big ideas

I’m fascinated by the way in which ideas that we used to think of as part the future are now part of history: the idea that mankind faced an ‘atomic crossroads’ of extinction or utopia; the idea that space travel was part of our ‘manifest destiny’ or even our evolution; and the rise of the scientific belief in extraterrestrial intelligence. There are unexpected connections between all these things, and tracing them tells us a lot about where the optimism of the 1960s came from, and what happened to it in the decades that followed as environmentalism and realism kicked in.

British history

I try and approach modern received wisdoms in the same way as those of the past, by examining their assumptions. As a mainstream historian my field is early modern and modern Britain, c.1600-1850. I am working on the history of the Peterloo massacre of 1819, one of the formative episodes in the development of modern democracy and the 1612 affair of the Lancashire witches, England’s biggest peacetime witch trial, whose 400th anniversary is being marked by numerous events.


Picturing the Earth from Space’ feature, NPR

Seeing our Planet, Finding Ourselves’ feature, PRI

Yale University Press interview with author

In Our Time: the Calendar

Seeing the Earth
8th Swiss Biennial on Science, Technology & Aesthetics, The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind, Lucerne, January 2010.

History of science publications

‘Stanley Kubrick and the Dawn of Man’, in Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives ed. P. Kramer, T. Ljujic & R. Daniels (Black Dog Press, forthcoming 2013).
‘The Challenge of Space: Arthur C. Clarke and the History of the Future, 1945-75’, History and Technology issue, ‘European Astroculture’ (forthcoming 2012).
Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth (Yale University Press, 2008), xvi + 236 pp.
‘Calendars or Clocks? Lived Time in Early Industrial England’, in Urban Europe in Comparative Perspective: papers presented at the Eighth International Conference on Urban History ed. Lars Nilsson (Stockholm, 2006).
‘The Calendar’, Dictionary of Early Modern Europe 1450-1789 (New York: Scribner, 2004).
Time’s alteration: calendar reform in early modern England (UCL Press/Taylor & Francis, London, 1998), xix+243pp.

Peterloo and the age of reform
Interview about the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 in episode 3 of ‘Elegance and Decadence: the Age of the Regency’, BBC4 (interview starts at 42.50 minutes into programme.

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Buying the book

Thank you for your interest in Earthrise.

UK/Europe book orders:

From Yale Books, price £18.99 postage free
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