Galileo's Daughter : A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I picked this book up after having read and enjoyed Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Read morePublished 8 months ago by R Helen
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 14 2014 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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.
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. Read more
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 againPublished on March 3 2010 by Quincy Nelson
From the title of this book, I naturally expected it to be a biography of Galileo's daughter, which it is not exactly. Read morePublished on July 7 2004 by Gypsi Phillips Bates
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 morePublished on July 3 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
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 morePublished on April 10 2004 by Arnold V. Loveridge
Some biographers, through talent and the intelligent use of a pen, can make their subject's life a fascinating and interesting tale. Read morePublished on March 22 2004