Ferguson, Kitty 1941-
FERGUSON, Kitty 1941-
(Kitty Gail Ferguson)
PERSONAL: Born December 16, 1941, in San Antonio, TX; married Yale Hicks Ferguson, August 26, 1961; children: Colin Yale, Duff Christopher, Caitlin Christiana. Education: Juilliard School of Music, B.A., 1965, M.S., 1966. Religion: Episcopalian. Hobbies and other interests: Music.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency, 440 West End Ave., No. 15D, New York, NY 10024.
CAREER: Writer. Freelance singer, New York, NY, 1965–72; Community Presbyterian Church, Chester, NJ, music director, 1974–77; Chester Ensemble, music director and founder, 1975–80; Brookside Community Church, Brookside, NJ, music director, 1977–82; Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church, Liberty Corner, NJ, music director, 1982–86. Episcopal Diocese of Newark, Newark, NJ, John Elbridge Hines lecturer in science and religion, 1994. St. Peter's-Kothapallimitta Companionship, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Morristown, NJ, coordinator, 2000; member of board of advisors, John Templeton Foundation, 2001.
Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of the Universe, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.
Black Holes in Spacetime (juvenile), Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1991.
The Fire in the Equations, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994, published as The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion, and the Search for God, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1995.
Prisons of Light: Black Holes, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time, Walker & Company (New York, NY), 1999.
Tycho & Kepler: The Unlikely Partnership That Forever Changed Our Understanding of the Heavens, Walker & Company (New York, NY) 2002, published as The Nobleman and His Housedog: Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler: The Strange Partnership That Revolutionized Science, Review Press (London, England), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Although Kitty Ferguson graduated from a music conservatory and pursued a career in music for some twenty years, she never lost her interest in astronomy. While she and her family spent a year in England, where her husband was a visiting fellow at Cambridge University, Ferguson audited lectures and seminars in astronomy, even meeting renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. After returning to the United States, she built on her experiences to launch a second career in writing about the scientists who study the heavens. Her first titles, Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of the Universe and Black Holes in Spacetime, appeared to favorable reviews in 1991. The first was inspired by her encounter with Hawking and was approved by him, and the latter, written for the juvenile market, came about after Ferguson helped her daughter Caitlin with a science project about black holes. Ferguson showed continued interest in black holes, writing a volume for the adult market as well: Prisons of Light: Black Holes, which a Publishers Weekly contributor praised for its factual content but also for "the humor, fantasy, poetry and awe Ferguson brings to the subject."
In her next work, The Fire in the Equations, Ferguson explores science, religion and the search for the divine, including such topics as the nature of time, the Big Bang theory, the laws of nature, chaos theory, black holes, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and quantum physics. She poses and answers the question: "Isn't mathematics our one sure, unclouded window to reality?" In doing so, Ferguson presents the chapters "The Elusive Mind of God" and "The God of Abraham and Jesus," finishing the book with the chapter "Theory of Everything … Mind of God." Through her "carefully nuanced reasoning," wrote Bryce Christensen in Booklist, Ferguson "shows that modern science does not compel its adherents to reject the … personal God of Scripture." In fact, according to David Grandy, writing in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, although "Ferguson is not writing as an apologist of the Christian faith,… she nevertheless recognizes better than most that science, as well as religion, is a wager on God. Christians therefore ought to take science seriously."
Also inspired by Ferguson's daughter was Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time, a "lively history," as Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman stated. Beginning her survey of scientific discovery in ancient times, Ferguson progresses step by step to the present, explaining complicated theories and summarizing the accomplishments of outstanding historical figures in her signature style. Among the work's admirers are Discover critic Jeffrey Winters, who noted that "while she does a fine job with her lucid accounts of the reasoning behind important leaps of insight, it's the little details that delight." Library Journal contributor James Olson applauded Ferguson for her "gift for explaining difficult scientific concepts in clear prose." "The lives of these pioneering thinkers and their simple but profound revelations make for easy reading," enthused Kelly Whitt in Astronomy.
In Tycho & Kepler: The Unlikely Partnership That Forever Changed Our Understanding of the Heavens, (also published as The Nobleman and His Housedog: Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler: The Strange Partnership That Revolutionized Science), Ferguson considers the scientists Brahe and Kepler as individuals informed by the cultures and time periods in which they lived and worked. Kepler, an Austrian mathematician, and Brahe, a Danish astronomer, met in Prague and began a fruitful relationship that lasted less than two years. Although brief, the friendship provided Kepler with the material he needed to discover his three laws of planetary motion. According to Lawrence A. Marschall, writing in Natural History, "Ferguson's approach, enlivened with the dramatic pacing of a mystery novel, shows beautifully how the obsessions of the pragmatic, imperious Brahe meshed perfectly with the obsessions of the idealistic, pensive Kepler." Ferguson also created a work that "makes for highly dramatic reading," to quote Booklist critic Donna Seaman, "and offers an arresting perspective on the practice of science." Likening this joint biography to Dava Sobel's popular history Longitude was Astronomy writer Howard Margolis, who found that "while Ferguson is not as elegant a writer as Sobel, her more detailed treatment of the technical side of Kepler's work amply compensates." Edna Boardman, writing in Kliatt, dubbed the book a "superb science biography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ferguson, Kitty, The Fire in the Equations, Bantam (New York, NY), 1994.
America, February 17, 1996, Emilie Griffin, review of The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion and the Search for God, p. 34.
Astronomy, September, 1999, Kelly Whitt, review of Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time, p. 98; April, 2003, Howard Margolis, review of Tycho & Kepler: The Unlikely Partnership That Forever Changed Our Understanding of the Heavens, p. 105.
Booklist, June 1, 1995, Bryce Christensen, review of The Fire in the Equations, p. 1692; July, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Prisons of Light: Black Holes, p. 1788; December 1, 1998, Ilene Cooper, review of Stephen Hawking: Quest for a Theory of the Universe, p. 680; July, 1999, Bryce Christensen, review of Measuring the Universe, p. 1912; December 1, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Measuring the Universe, p. 676; December 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Tycho & Kepler, p. 636; December 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Tycho & Kepler, p. 641.
Discover, September, 1999, Jeffrey Winters, review of Measuring the Universe, p. 95.
Forbes, December 13, 1999, Susan Adams, "The Universe and Mrs. Ferguson," review of Measuring the Universe, p. 387.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, September, 1999, David Grandy, review of The Fire in the Equations, p. 190.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Tycho & Kepler, p. 1587.
Kliatt, September, 2004, Edna Boardman, review of Tycho & Kepler, pp. 48-50.
Library Journal, July, 1999, James Olson, review of Measuring the Universe, p. 125; December, 2002, James Olson, review of Tycho & Kepler, pp. 168-169.
Natural History, April, 2003, Laurence A. Marschall, review of Tycho & Kepler, pp. 70-71.
Publishers Weekly, August 12, 1996, review of Prisons of Light, p. 74; June 28, 1999, review of Measuring the Universe, p. 67; December 2, 2002, review of Tycho & Kepler, p. 46.