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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 (200 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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By STEPHEN PLETKO TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 3 2004
Format: Paperback
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 1642).
Theme #2: Describes the life of Galileo's daughter (1600 to 1634) through some of the actual letters she wrote to her father.
This is first and foremost a solid, easy to read biography of Galileo. His life is traced from him first entering a monastery before deciding to lead a life of scientific inquiry and discovery. Actual letters or parts of letters (translated from the original Latin, French, or Italian by various experts) by Galileo and others are included in the main narrative. Throughout, we are told of his numerous inventions and discoveries. Perhaps the most sensational is that his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the Copernican argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced eventually to spend his last years under house arrest. All the translated papers pertaining to these inquisition days are included and make for fascinating reading.
My favorite Inquisition story is with respect to the June 1633 renunciation or "confession" document (reproduced in this book) Galileo was to speak out aloud. The main point of this document is that the Earth does not move around the Sun and that the Earth does not move at all. After reading it aloud, it is said that he muttered under his breath "Eppur si muove" (translation: "But it does move.")
One of Galileo's daughters born "Virginia" and later appropriately named "Sister Maria Celeste," had the intelligence and sensibility of her father.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr P R Morgan on June 29 2004
Format: Paperback
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. This is based on the surviving letters from his eldest child to the astronomer and scientist; from her there are 124 extant letters, but not one of his remains. (However, there are numerous of his other writings and correspondence that the author also draws upon, both directly, and indirectly). Even from the letters alone, it quickly becomes apparent that the reader needs to suspend ideas of parenthood and morality as we would know them. This is seventeenth century Italy, and completely different rules apply.
Suor (or Sister) Maria Celeste took orders in the convent of St Clare at the age of 13, and the tone of her letters is of sheer reverence of her father, and there is a joy in her performing menial task for him, her brother and others in the family. The vow of poverty that Virginia (her name was changed upon entering the convent) took was real, and sometimes there is more than a hint of begging in her letters to Galileo. She also at times was given the responsibility of sending begging letters to possible patrons on behalf of the convent.
Intricate details of everyday life are given throughout; the account of the plague in central Italy in 1630 is particularly good. The continual return to such matters follows the ebb and flow of the letters. Often, letters were sent with some items that had been prepared, and there are requests to send a basket back, or some similar items. Details of convent life are an important backdrop to the writings of Galileo, and Suor Maria Celeste understood both (she helped make fair copy of some of her father's writings prior to publication).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Atheen on March 19 2004
Format: Paperback
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 the story, the book is largely a biography of her father, the preeminent Renaissance physicist and astronomer, Italian Galileo Galillei.
Dava Sobel manages to capture her subject from a more intimate prospective than many biographers by using correspondence, mainly that from his daughter Virginia (later Sister Maria Celeste) to illuminate the more personal aspects of his life. None of the great man's own letters to his daughter remain--the author opines this was because the sister was not allowed to possess anything and such letters might therefore have been destroyed or removed to another location--so his replies are unknown except through references made to them by the sister.
The details of Galileo's life as a youth and as a scientist were known to me to some limited degree through other reading and by means of a play based on his life that I attended at the Children's Theater here in Minneapolis, but the author's book more clearly develops the scientist's life as a family man, devout Catholic, and confidant of the world's contemporary intelligentsia.
For me the most interesting aspect of Galileo's story is still the ordeal he was subjected to as a result of his astronomical observations and beliefs. The author makes it much more obvious that this was no insignificant event in the scientist's life, using Sister Maria Celeste's letters to illuminate the precariousness of the scientist's political situtation and health.
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