Young John Goodricke practiced astronomy in late 18th century England, a time when Isaac Newton’s dispassionate vision of the natural world had given way to the wonder of romantic science. Nature’s mysteries were probed through personal enquiry conducted by the cloistered and concentrated. A heavy sentiment, perhaps, but one certainly true in the case of Goodricke. He was bright, confident and not a little starry eyed.
Achievement in astronomy for someone so young is one thing, but quite another for one deaf from early childhood. He may have lived during the ‘Enlightenment’, but the outlook for a deaf child held little promise in a culture more callous than caring. Determined parents, however, enrolled him in the first ever school for the deaf in all of Great Britain. A groundbreaking education later led to his pioneering and far-reaching discoveries.
Goodricke’s Time is an historical novel, but not an alternate history. Samuel Johnson, William Herschel, Thomas Braidwood, Edward Pigott, Joseph Banks and Nevil Maskelyne all appear. It is a tale of disability, dogged science and the conflict between solitude and loneliness we all carry within.