He was a graduate of the University of Missouri and received a PHD from Princeton.Early in his career (1914 to 1921) heworked at Mt. Wilson Observatory and determined the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and the earth's location within it.The publicity from this work allowed him to become the director of the Harvard Observatory at a young age.
He was director of the Harvard Observatory for from 1921 to 1940 which gave him the opportunity to meet many interesting people and travel widely.He lived an interesting life filled with many varied interests which is evident in this book.For example, one chapter is devoted to his study of ants which obviously has almost nothing to do with this professional role as an astronomer.He was obviously a gifted story teller with a personal history filled with many stories waiting to be told.
He wrote many books on astronomy and the sciences.In the 1940's, Shapley helped found government funded scientific associations, including the National Science Foundation. He is also responsible for the addition of the "S" in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).