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Galileo's Daughter : A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love Unknown Binding – 1999


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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (1999)
  • ASIN: B002FD595Q
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (199 customer reviews)

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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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4.1 out of 5 stars

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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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By Bart Breen TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 5 2011
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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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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