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Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series) [Paperback]

Mario Biagioli
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 1994 0226045609 978-0226045603 1
Informed by currents in sociology, cultural anthropology, and literary theory, Galileo, Courtier is neither a biography nor a conventional history of science. In the court of the Medicis and the Vatican, Galileo fashioned both his career and his science to the demands of patronage and its complex systems of wealth, power, and prestige. Biagioli argues that Galileo's courtly role was integral to his science—the questions he chose to examine, his methods, even his conclusions.

Galileo, Courtier is a fascinating cultural and social history of science highlighting the workings of power, patronage, and credibility in the development of science.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Biagioli here views Galileo's career in a new light. Instead of the traditional view of Galileo as the "new scientist" championing the Copernican cause against the Aristotelians, Biagioli presents a convincing argument for Galileo as the courtly gentleman whose patronage goals drove his scientific work. Biagioli begins by describing how client-patron relationships worked in early 17th-century Italy, how Galileo used those social structures to advance himself from artisan to university professor to Cosimo de Medici's Court Philosopher and how his actions helped raise mathematics and natural science to a respected position. Biagioli then discusses how patronage guided scientific discourse, ending with Galileo's eventual downfall. Though scholarly, this superb book is a joy to read and provides new insight into the history of science.
- Eric D. Albright, Galter Health Sciences Lib., Northwestern Univ., Chicago
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Mario Biagioli is distinguished professor of law and science and technology studies and director of the Center for Innovation Studies at the University of California, Davis.


Product Details

  • Series: Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226045609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226045603
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars controversial but important October 21, 2004
I read the Shank-Biagioli dispute the reviewer mentions. If you accept Shank's critique, it undermines one chapter but not the entire book. For anyone interested in Galileo, scientific patronage, or religion and science, this is a must-read. Even if you do not agree with everything Biagioli says, his book has been incredibly influential.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A whole new Galileo August 11, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a real eye-opener. Fascinating, readable, well-researched, Mario Biagioli takes us beyond the ever-present conventional portraits of Galileo as "father of modern science." Biagioli weaves an enthralling tale that takes us into a world that is very different than our own. Here we see Galileo in his 16th century context, rather than through the anachronism of enlightenment and positivism. And what a strange and wonderful picture it is. A world of courtly patronage and emblamatics that Galileo navigated as skillfully as he did the worlds of mathematics and natural philosophy. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the history, science, the Renaissance or even just a good story with fascinating ideas and personalities.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By wendy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an alarm call to Biagioli's own field of the History of Science: highly controversial, groundbreaking and brilliantly crafted. His subversive work of critical Historiography is housed within a text about the history of Science, and its surface focus is Galileo's court society context. But careful and clever readers will find he is taking structures of science, History practices, and the modern university to task. He blends theoretical reflection with historical analysis, incorporates visual evidence alongside textual proof, and forces alert readers to confront a series of assumptions concerning Galileo and early modern science that, over the years, have calcified into articles of faith. Perhaps most importantly, he opens up imagined barriers to generate further scholarship. Both directly and indirectly Biagioli challenges his readers to stretch their framework and test his ideas.
And what does he get for this dangerous shot into the crowd?... Why tenure at Harvard, as he should.

Other reviews here focus--quite rightly--on the main narrative issues, and with them it is best to learn about the upper bulk of this book. But the heart of what Biagioli is up to was beautifully demonstrated by another critical reviewer here. That reviewer supplies the perfect quote to illustrate my point and Biagioli's deeper project:
"from Michael Shank's review (Shank, Michael H. 1994. Galileo's Day in Court. Journal for the History of Astronomy 25:236-242.) and Biagioli and Shank's later exchange on the book in Early science and medicine Vol 1, 1996.
Shank concludes, and I agree, that Biagioli manipulates the evidence and does not "behave in the way in which good, honest, historians behave".
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