The Ascent of Gravity

The Ascent of Gravity

Gravity is the weakest force in the everyday world yet it is the strongest force in the Universe. It was the first force to be recognised and described yet it is the least understood. It is a ‘force’ that keeps your feet on the ground yet no such force actually exists.

Gravity, to steal the words of Winston Churchill, is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. And penetrating that enigma promises to answer the biggest questions in science: What is space? What is time? What is the Universe? And where did it all come from?

Award-winning writer Marcus Chown takes you on an unforgettable journey from the recognition of the ‘force’ of gravity in 1666 to the discovery of gravitational waves in 2015. And, as we stand on the brink of a seismic revolution in our worldview, he brings us up to speed on the greatest challenge ever to confront physics.


  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • Publication date: April 6, 2017
  • ISBN: 978-1474601863
  • Timely, accessible and peppered with quotes from Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, this history of something we all feel but still cannot quite grasp has an admirably light touch.

    Sunday Times Science Book of the Year 2017

  • I loved it!

    Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat

  • Genial wit and scientific flair awaits.


  • An entertaining and at times mind-boggling guide to the weakest of nature’s fundamental forces, which also controls the fate of the Universe

    The Times

  • A readable romp through the history of cosmology and its possible future. Marcus Chown is excellent on bringing out the temporary nature of theories, as well as the messy business of refining them.

  • Compact and accessible while remaining comprehensive. A welcome addition to anyone’s popular science library, written in a relaxed style and full of relevant quotations.

    BBC Sky at Night Magazine

  • Marcus Chown traces our understanding of gravity from Newton’s pioneering ideas to the present state of well-informed perplexity. He is good company, telling his story clearly and setting out the key ideas without jargon and intimidating mathematics. Eminently readable book. Does Einstein proud.

    The Guardian

  • Mind-bogglingly brilliant


  • Contains one of the nicest explanations I’ve read of the fact objects of different mass fall at the same rate. His chapter on the tides, from the water in the River Severn to the squeezing and stretching of Jupiter’s moon Io, is lovely. We end with the current attempt to reconcile gravity and quantum theory, and a surprisingly accessible and enjoyable discussion of string theory and multidimensional space. Enjoyably, Chown’s book doesn’t give the sense that “physics is broken” I’ve come across elsewhere; it’s more that we’re on the cusp of an exciting step change in our understanding.

    Times Higher Education Supplement

  • Marcus Chown has done great things for the popularisation of physics.

    Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

  • Chown stands out among writers who tackle abstract subject matter. His storytelling combines delightful biographical sketches of the main characters with some of the most compelling and often funny science writing.

    New Zealand Listener

  • A helter-skelter tour through the lives and discoveries of people who helped us understand gravity. Engaging. Recommended.

    Astronomy Now