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Galileo's Daughter [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Dava Sobel , Fritz Weaver
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 4 2005
Galileo Galilei was the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. His telescopes allowed him to reveal the heavens and enforce the astounding argument that the earth moves around the sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced to spend his last years under house arrest.

Galileo's oldest child was thirteen when he placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her support was her father's greatest source of strength. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then.

GALILEO'S DAUGHTER dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishment of a mythic figure whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo's public life and Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during an era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was overturned. With all the human drama and scientific adventure that distinguished Latitude, GALILEO'S DAUGHTER is an unforgettable story.

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Everyone knows that Galileo Galilei dropped cannonballs off the leaning tower of Pisa, developed the first reliable telescope, and was convicted by the Inquisition for holding a heretical belief--that the earth revolved around the sun. But did you know he had a daughter? In Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel (author of the bestselling Longitude) tells the story of the famous scientist and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. Sobel bases her book on 124 surviving letters to the scientist from the nun, whom Galileo described as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and tenderly attached to me." Their loving correspondence revealed much about their world: the agonies of the bubonic plague, the hardships of monastic life, even Galileo's occasional forgetfulness ("The little basket, which I sent you recently with several pastries, is not mine, and therefore I wish you to return it to me").

While Galileo tangled with the Church, Maria Celeste--whose adopted name was a tribute to her father's fascination with the heavens--provided moral and emotional support with her frequent letters, approving of his work because she knew the depth of his faith. As Sobel notes, "It is difficult today ... to see the Earth at the center of the Universe. Yet that is where Galileo found it." With her fluid prose and graceful turn of phrase, Sobel breathes life into Galileo, his daughter, and the earth-centered world in which they lived. --Sunny Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Despite its title, this impressive book proves to be less the story of Galileo's elder daughter, the oldest of his three illegitimate children, and more the story of Galileo himself and his trial before the Inquisition for arguing that Earth moves around the Sun. That familiar tale is given a new slant by Sobel's translationAfor the first time into EnglishAof the 124 surviving letters to Galileo by his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, a Clarisse nun who died at age 33; his letters to her are lost, presumably destroyed by Maria Celeste's convent after her death. Her letters may not in themselves justify a book; they are devout, full of pious love for the father she addresses as "Sire," only rarely offering information or insight. But Sobel uses them as the accompaniment to, rather than the core of, her story, sounding the element of faith and piety so often missing in other retellings of Galileo's story. For Sobel shows that, in renouncing his discoveries, Galileo acted not just to save his skin but also out of a genuine need to align himself with his church. With impressive skill and economy, she portrays the social and psychological forces at work in Galileo's trial, particularly the political pressures of the Thirty Years' War, and the passage of the plague through Italy, which cut off travel between Florence, where Galileo lived, and Rome, the seat of the Pope and the Inquisition, delaying Galileo's appearance there and giving his enemies time to conspire. In a particularly memorable way, Sobel vivifies the hard life of the "Poor Clares," who lived in such abject poverty and seclusion that many were driven mad by their confinement. It's a wholly involving tale, a worthy follow-up (after four years) to Sobel's surprise bestseller, Longitude. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
The day after his sister Virginia's funeral, the already world-renowned scientist Galileo Galilei received this, the first of 124 surviving letters from the once-voluminous correspondence he carried on with his elder daughter. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In 1633, the astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was tried and convicted of heresy by the Holy Office of the Inquisition for the crime of having defended the idea that the sun is the centre of the universe around which the earth and planets revolve. Galileo was punished by being placed under house arrest and ordered to publicly affirm his belief in the earth-centred universe. Galileo’s story is the stuff of legend. And yet, there are few references to the support given to Galileo by Suor Maria Celeste, a member of the order of Poor Clares in the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri. Born Virginia Galilei in 1600, she is the eldest of Galileo’s three illegitimate children and lived within the cloistered walls of San Matteo from 1613 until her death in 1634.

In Galileo’s Daughter, Ms Sobel interweaves the stories of father and daughter. Suor Maria Celeste’s letters to Galileo have survived; his to her have not. Ms Sobel writes that his letters were probably destroyed by the Convent after her death:

‘In this fashion, the correspondence between father and daughter was long ago reduced to a monologue.’

The lives of father and daughter could not be in more stark contrast: she lived within the confines of a convent; much of his life was lived very publicly through his teaching, research and invention. We know about Galileo’s public life, but in this book we learn of domestic concerns, of his daughter’s preparation of pills and potions for his illness, of her mending and sewing for him and of preparing food for him. We learn as well that Galileo was a generous benefactor of the Convent, and that Suor Maria Celeste served as an apothecary and was sought out by the abbesses to write important letters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Service and a Good Read March 15 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great Service from the sender, quick and clean book.
Dava Sobel writing compelling story. This is a must read for all amateur back yard astronomers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Personal, Very Human, Very Revealing June 5 2011
By Bart Breen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
I listened to the this book on tape.

It has been one of the more enjoyable literary experiences I have had recently. The writing style is excellent. The narration done masterfully with the narrator distinctively creating the voices and personalities of the different characters. I found the experience riviting and entertaining.

As regards the book itself, I was familiar with the story of Galileo but this brought it to life and personalized it so that I now view this history with a much more passionate eye.

The brilliance of Galileo's intellect and the radical information that he brought into the darkness of his age cannot be underestimated. As viewed through the culture of our day, I don't believe we can appreciate the role of one who challenges the prevailing wisdom of the current age and shakes it to its core. Part of Galileo's legacy is that we have developed in a more scientific community and change is more or less expected and we are by and large more prepared to receive such change as a matter of course. Not all of us of course, but it is a part of our culture and expectations to a degree unheard of in the world, especially as it emerged from the Dark Ages.

I found that important to keep in mind as I absorbed the information of this book recounting the treatment of Galileo by the Catholic Church.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Perspective July 7 2004
Format:Paperback
From the title of this book, I naturally expected it to be a biography of Galileo's daughter, which it is not exactly. I was a bit disappointed to begin with, as the first hundred pages or so are Galileo's early biography. Once his daughter, Virginia (later Suor Marie Celeste) came into the picture, the story became much more interesting.
Virginia was one of Galileo's three illegitimate children by the mistress of his early years, Marina Gamba. She eventually married, with Galileo's blessings, and he never lost interest in his children. Due to their illegitimacy which he felt would eliminate any chance of a decent marriage, Galileo had his two daughters entered into a convent at a very early age. The both became nuns at the convent of San Matteo on turning sixteen, Virginia taking the name Suor Marie Celeste and Livia that of Suor Arcangela. The son, Vincenzio, lived with Galileo in his late teens and eventually (after an unpromising start) became a good son to him.
This book recounts Galileo's personal and private life, using letters from Marie Celeste to give color to what would otherwise be a black and white, straight forward biography. Their shared love is beautiful to see in her letters--his to her having been lost--and the bits and pieces of every day life that she treats the reader to are thoroughly enjoyable.
This is a very detailed and readable history of Galileo, and gave me a much greater understanding of the man, his work and his difficulty with the Church. The conflict he felt between himself and his discoveries comes through very clearly and poignantly in his own words through his other letters. Her faith in him, and in the fact that he was not being heretical, is very apparent.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars good customer service
this book arrived in below my expectations, however the seller was great in that they offered me a full refund. Might purchase from this seller again
Published on March 3 2010 by Quincy Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars A original perspective.
Dava Sobel made an excellent job in this book. Family is an aspect of Galileo's life never exploded before (at least not that I know) and totally gives you a different perspective... Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
5.0 out of 5 stars "The father...of modern science" had a loving daughter!!
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This six part, 33 chapter book, by Dava Sobel, has two themes running through it:
Theme #1: Decribes thoroughly the life and times of Galileo Galilei (1564 to... Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by Stephen Pletko
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a Loving Daughter�s view of a Good Catholic
Dava Sorbel (in case you wondered, it's s a woman) has written a thoroughly entertaining and gripping account of Galileo Galilei's life from an unusual angle. Read more
Published on June 29 2004 by Mr P R Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only a great man, but a great father, too!
A historical Memoir of science, faith, and love. The book purports to use letters from Galileo's daughter to form the basis of this biography and they are certainly a major part... Read more
Published on April 10 2004 by Arnold V. Loveridge
1.0 out of 5 stars Dava Sobel writes a too-long tale with little drama
Some biographers, through talent and the intelligent use of a pen, can make their subject's life a fascinating and interesting tale. Read more
Published on March 22 2004 by "enhollenbeck"
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book on an interesting topic and time
Despite the title, the book is not about Galileo's daughter. While her correspondence with her father figures prominently throughout the book and details of her life factor into... Read more
Published on March 19 2004 by Atheen M. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars It Does Move!
I give this book five stars, because it is absolutely essential reading for anyone wanting a schoalrly, balanced account of "the Galileo incident" at the center of modern... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2004 by JohnMatthias
4.0 out of 5 stars Better Title: Galileo AND His Daughter
We read this book as the monthly selection in our bookclub. The book is very interesting, but definitely NOT a FAST read. Read more
Published on Feb. 22 2004 by Imperial Topaz
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