Why this book?
The Face of the Moon was the most important lunar book of the 20th century and perhaps of all time. Ralph Baldwin was an astronomer who studied stars, but while waiting to give public lectures at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium in 1941 he became fascinated by huge photos of the Moon on the planetarium’s walls. Baldwin saw that craters were everywhere, from tiny ones to giants hundreds of miles wide that had gouged surrounding terrain and ejected bright streamers of debris in all directions.
During World War 2 he recognized that myriads of craters from the Allied bombardment that had devasted France and Germany were tiny versions of what he saw on the Moon. The Moon’s craters were not volcanoes as commonly believed, they formed by explosions of projectiles – asteroids and comets. After the war, Baldwin investigated the physics of crater formation by setting off dynamite charges along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan. From his observations and experiments, he wrote the first book that correctly detailed the origins of the Moon’s most common features, impact craters.
Although correct in nearly everything he wrote, the book was rejected by most publishers until 1949 when his hometown school, the University of Chicago, recognized its greatness. One Noble Prize-winning scientist saw The Face of the Moon at a cocktail party and sat down for the next two hours, captivated by it. Baldwin became an instant hero of lunar science.