Of all human inventions, the mirror is perhaps the most intriguing, since it is so closely connected to our own consciousness, reflecting both reality and illusion. As our first technology for self-contemplation, the mirror is arguably as important an invention as the wheel and perhaps even more universal (the Incas, who had mirrors, did not invent wheels). Mirror Mirror is the fascinating story of the mirror’s invention, refinement, and use in an astonishing range of human activities — from the bloodthirsty smoking gods of the Aztecs to the fantastic mirrored rooms wealthy Romans created for their orgies, to the mirror’s key role in gathering light from the far reaches of the universe.
Pendergrast spins tales about:
• the 2,500-year mystery of whether Archimedes and his “burning mirror” really set fire to Roman ships.
• the medieval Venetian mirror-makers for whom any attempt to escape their cloistered island was punishable by death.
• John Dee, whose attempts to talk to angels in his magic mirror led to disaster and free love experiments.
• Isaac Newton, the obsessive genius whose intense experiments with sunlight on mirrors that nearly blinded him.
• Renaissance artists such as Jan van Eyck and Albrecht Dürer who used mirrors to revolutionize realistic representations of the world.
• George Ellery Hale, the manic-depressive astronomer, and George Ritchey, the arrogant optician, who joined forces to produce ever-larger telescope mirrors until their friendship shattered.
• Roger Angel, who now spin-casts the world’s largest mirrors underneath the University of Arizona football stadium.
• And many more rivetting stories and quirky characters.
This is the extraordinary tale of the reflective surface that means nothing without an observer – a truly blank slate – and yet has had a remarkable impact on myth, religion, science, psychology, business, and the arts. Like mirrors themselves, Mirror Mirror is a book that provokes wonder and discovery.