Colin Ronan

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Colin A. Ronan (London, 4 June 1920 – 1 June 1995) was a British author and specialist in the history and philosophy of science.

He was educated at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire and served in the British Army from 1940–1946, achieving the rank of major. After the war he obtained a BSc in Astronomy, and then took an administrative post at the secretariat of The Royal Society. While there he did an MSc in the History and Philosophy of Science under Herbert Dingle at University College London. After leaving the Royal Society he took up writing, and during a long career as an author produced over forty books, mainly on astronomy, and the history and philosophy of science. Later in life he collaborated with Joseph Needham on an abridgement of Needham's great work on China, producing The Shorter Science and Civilization in China in several volumes. He played key roles in the administration of the British Astronomical Association, where he was president from 1989 to 1991, and for many years he was the editor of its journal, and director of the historical section.

For a considerable period in the 1980s and early 1990s he collaborated with Sir Patrick Moore in lecture tours. These lecture tours took the form of weekend residential symposia on single topics such as the return of Halley’s Comet. Notable and hilarious, the interplay between Ronan’s sober and intellectual analysis along with Moore’s more extravagant character, led frequent disagreements that were usually solved over several bottles of red wine. These weekends were an enormous success and made a valuable and irreplaceable contribution to the amateur astronomical scene

With his second wife Ann, he founded the Ronan Picture Library, which specialises in scientific and historical pictures. Among his many books on the history of science were studies of scientists such as Galileo, William Herschel and Edmond Halley. He also wrote scientific books for children, along with books such as The Practical Astronomer (1981) written for beginner amateur astronomers.

Ronan had an asteroid named in honour of his achievements: 4024 Ronan belongs to the Floras family, discovered by E. Bowell on November 24, 1981, at Anderson Mesa.


  • Universe: The Cosmos Explained. Quantum Books. 2007. 
  • The Shorter Science and Civilization in China (with Joseph Needham). Cambridge University Press in 6 volumes. 1978–1995. [1]
  • Science Explained. Henry Holt. 1993. 
  • The Natural History of the Universe. Transworld Publishers, Macmillan. 1991. 
  • The Universe Explained. Henry Holt, Thames and Hudson. 1994. 
  • Science: Its History & Development Among the World's Cultures. Facts on File. 1985. 
  • The Skywatcher's Handbook: night and day, what to look for in the heavens above. Corgi, Crown. 1985. 
  • Amateur Astronomy-A Comprehensive & Practical Survey. Newnes Books. 1984. 
  • Science: its history and development among the world's cultures. Facts on File. 1983. 
  • The Cambridge Illustrated History of the World's Science. Cambridge University Press. 1983. 
  • Atlas of Scientific Discovery. Crescent Books, Apple Press. 1983. 
  • Deep Space. Scribner. 1982. 
  • The Practical Astronomer. Macmillan, (Crescent 1988, Bloomsbury 1992). 1981. 
  • Encyclopedia of Astronomy. Hamlyn. 1979. 
  • Greenwich Observatory: 300 years of astronomy. Times Books. 1975. 
  • Galileo. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Putnam. 1974. 
  • Astronomy: Illustrated Sources in History. David and Charles, Barnes and Noble. 1973. 
  • Lost Discoveries: the forgotten science of the ancient world. McGraw Hill. 1973. 
  • Discovering the Universe: a history of astronomy. Basic Books 1971, Heinemann 1972. 1971. 
  • Book of Science. Oxford University Press. 1971. 
  • Sir Isaac Newton. International Textbook Company 1971, Shire 1976. 1971. 
  • Edmond Halley: Genius in Eclipse. Doubleday. 1969. 
  • Astronomers Royal. Doubleday. 1969. 
  • Their Majesties' Astronomers. Bodley Head. 1967. 
  • Invisible Astronomy. Eyre and Spottiswood 1967, JB Lippincott Co 1972. 1967. 
  • The Meaning of Sound. Hart Publishing Company. 1967. 
  • The Ages of Science. George G Harrup Co. 1966. 
  • Exploring Space. Odhams Books Limited. 1966. 
  • The Easy Way to Understand Photography. Max Parrish. 1966. 
  • The Universe. Franklin Watts, NY, later OUP. 1966. 
  • The Stars (Natural Science Picture Books). McGraw Hill, Bodley Head Children's Books. 1965. 
  • Man Probes the Universe-the Story of Astronomy. Natural History Press. 1964. 
  • Optical Astronomy-Changing Horizons. Phoenix House, Roy Publishers. 1964. 
  • The Astronomers. Evans Brothers. 1964. 
  • Radio and Radar Astronomy. Doubleday. 1963. 
  • Clocks and Watches. Doubleday. 1962. 
  • The Meaning of Light. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1962. 
  • Changing Views of the Universe. Eyre and Spottiswood, Macmillan. 1961. 
  • The Earth from Pole to Pole. George G Harrup Co. 1961.