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Dimensions:
210 × 148 × 15 mm
208 pages
Format:
Paperback
ISBN:
9781780239200
Illustrations:
105 illustrations, 77 in colour
Published:
16 Apr 2018
Series:
Earth

Rainbows Nature and Culture Daniel MacCannell

The rainbow is a compelling spectacle in nature – a rare bridge between subjective experience and objective reality – and no less remarkable as a cultural phenomenon. A symbol of the Left since the German Peasants’ War of the 1520s, it has been adopted by movements for gay rights, the environment, multiculturalism and peace around the globe, and inspired poets, artists and writers including John Keats, Caspar David Friedrich, Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The scientific ‘discovery’ of the rainbow is a remarkable tale that takes in ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Persia and Islamic Spain. Rainbows have also been regarded as ominous or even dangerous in myth and religion, while the twentieth century saw their emergence as kitsch, from the musical film version of The Wizard of Oz to 1980s sitcoms and children’s cartoons.

Daniel MacCannell’s enlightening and instructive guide to the rainbow’s relationship with humanity is the first book of its kind. It describes what rainbows are and how they work, how we arrived at our current scientific understanding of rainbows, and how they have been portrayed in myths, the arts, politics and popular culture.

‘Rainbows, often depicted as a simple arc of six or seven colors, are complex visual phenomena that have fascinated humans since ancient times. In this nicely illustrated guide, historian Daniel MacCannell starts off with a brief chapter describing the science behind rainbows and their many different manifestations. He moves on to deeper discussions of the history of their scientific study and of their mythic, artistic, cultural, and political significance.’ — Physics Today

‘This volume offers a straightforward survey of the rainbow’s significance in science, history, and culture. MacCannell begins with an overview of our current scientific understanding of the phenomenon and its varieties. He then covers the study of rainbows throughout history, from Ancient Greek and Persian scholars through the European Renaissance and Enlightenment. The text examines the use of rainbows in religious myths as well as cultural touchstones such as literature, music, and art. Finally, MacCannell considers the use of the rainbow as a societal and political symbol . . . An excellent job of highlighting examples from around the world, including South America, Asia, and Africa. Recommended’ — Choice


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An honorary research fellow in History at the University of Aberdeen, Daniel MacCannell ue frgs has written nine books, including Oxford: Mapping the City (2016) and How to Read Scottish Buildings (2015).

1 What Rainbows Are and How They Work

2 Rainbows in the History of Scientific Enquiry

3 Rainbows and Myth

4 Rainbows in Literature, Poetry and Music

5 Rainbows in Art and Film

6 Rainbows in Politics and Popular Culture



References

Select Bibliography

Acknowledgements

Photo Acknowledgements

Index