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Galileo: Watcher of the Skies Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300125364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300125368
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Wootton's biography has much to recommend it. It is engagingly written and offers fresh insights into Galileo's intellectual development."—James Hannam, Standpoint Magazine

(Standpoint Magazine)

"Wootton. . . argues persuasively in this well researched, intellectual biography that Galileo was a Copernican long before his discovery of the moons of Jupiter proved that not all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth."—Manjit Kumar, Sunday Telegraph
(Telegraph)

"Urgent. . . will garner. . . immediate interest and controversy."—Literary Review
 
(Literary Review)

"Wootton [is] a deeply erudite historian by trade and a passionate revisionist by temperament...Read Wooton to meet a Galileo who was always estranged froom vital aspects of his social and cultural world--and used that estrangement, as great intellectuals do, to fuel his intellectual progress."—Anthony Grafton, Bookforum
(Anthony Grafton Bookforum)

"[This book] demonstrates an awesome command of the vast Galileo literature. . . . Wootton excels in boldly speculating about Galileo's motives and the overall trajectory of his life. . . . [An] engaging account."—Owen Gingerich, The New York Times Book Review
(Owen Gingerich The New York Times Book Review)

"Wootton has written a lively book that is interesting to read, and one can concentrate on the fascinating details from the extensive research."—Noel M. Swerdlow, American Scientist
(Noel M. Swerdlow American Scientist)

"[This book] demonstrates an awesome command of the vast Galileo literature. . . . Wootton excels in boldly speculating about Galileo's motives and the overall trajectory of his life. . . . [An] engaging account."—Owen Gingerich, The New York Times Book Review
(John Derbyshire The New Criterion)

"[This book] demonstrates awesome command of the vast Galileo literature. . . . Wootton excels in speculating about Galileo's motives and in the overall trajectory of his life. . . . [An] engaging account."—The New York Times Book Review
(The New York Times Book Review)

" . . . a thought-provoking picture of him [Galileo]. . . . To read this account of how his ideas clashed witht he accepted ones is to appreciate that he is one of the world's great secular heroes."—Rob Hardy, The Commercial Dispatch
(Rob Hardy The Commercial Dispatch)

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 in the Astronautics and Astronomy category
(Choice Outstanding Academic Title Choice 2012-03-12)

About the Author

David Wootton is Anniversary Professor of History, University of York.

More About the Author

David Wootton is an historian, author of Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, and Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates. You can learn more about him at www.watcheroftheskies.org.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
I go to three completely different sections of the book and I start reading.
Richad of Connecticut
This is an excellent critical biography of one of the most important figures in the history of human thought.
arpard fazakas
It's terrific to find history that's still compelling reading on such a "well known" subject.
David Crumm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Richad of Connecticut VINE VOICE on December 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the last ten centuries only four massive intellectuals have dominated science, da Vinci, Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Einstein, four in a thousand years. This fabulous book entitled simply Galileo fooled me completely when I picked it up. First the small font which I always found annoying, and then it's published by the Yale University Press which means I've got myself an academic writer and publisher. This is normally a combination for a very boring read.

So now I have to give it my usual acid-test. I go to three completely different sections of the book and I start reading. It was like getting smacked in the face, this David Wottoon can write, no question about it. Everything he was saying was fascinating. Could it be, a book about Galileo a page turner? I went through the whole book and loved it. What's more I think I can promise you that you will love it too, provided you have an interest in the history of science? Here's why:

* Galileo has to be considered the first truly modern scientist. All who come after him must be measured against him. His imagination was extraordinary; his mind could only be classified as fertile. If he has seen further than others, it is because he was able to throw off the limitations imposed on all his fellow scientists by the church during the time in which they lived. This was by all accounts an extremely difficult thing to achieve. He did it.

* As an inventor not just a theorist, he excelled against any and all comers. The man created the pendulum clock, the telescope, and the micrometer, the first truly accurate timepiece. He is fully credited with transferring both the use of the microscope and telescope into working instruments to explore the small and the large, namely the universe.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Smilin' Jack on March 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Scholarship on Galileo has advanced tremendously in recent years. It became obvious that all existing biographies were out-of-date, and a new version was needed that marshaled all of the recent research. Moreover, it needed to condense this mass of information into one volume. Two people stepped up to that impossible task and wrote books that were released within one month of each other: Galileo, Watcher of the Skies by David Wootton, and Galileo by J.L. Heilbron. Wootton's book has been described as the more accessible of the two, so I went with it.

"Accessible" should by no means equate to "dumbed down." In 37 chapters and 267 pages, Wootton somehow manages to cram as much information about Galileo into the book as possible while maintaining a high level of readability and respect for the reader's intelligence. It quickly becomes apparent that the comic-strip version of the events of Galileo's life that we have inherited are highly strained and misleading at best, or simply grossly wrong at worst. But this is not merely a book setting the facts straight. Wootton has a daring new interpretation of the facts that threads throughout the book. The most controversial of these are the assertions that Galileo converted to Copernicanism much earlier than is popularly imagined; and that he was irreligious -- if not an atheist in the modern sense, then far from the "devout Catholic" that the Church has tried to paint him to be in recent decades. Neither assertion can be proven with hard evidence, but Wootton makes compelling arguments from secondary sources.

As for the famous trial in 1633, Wootton confirms the now prevailing opinion that Galileo was "the architect of his own downfall.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on January 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As the story is traditionally told, Galileo remained a faithful Catholic---and Galileo himself wanted people to believe that idea. He was anxious about airing his growing skepticism over the nature of the universe's origin and purpose. His scientific positions were dangerous enough. However, the popular notion that Galileo always was a faithful Catholic is called into question in this fascinating new Yale University Press biography from British scholar David Wootton, an expert in the history of science.

After years of research, Wootton's 300-page account of the scientist's life is likely to keep the debate about Galileo alive for years to come. Wootton concludes that Galileo's restless mind and spirit made him much closer to 21st-century scientists than most previous historical accounts have indicated. (As of 2010-11, recent research into the spiritual lives of scientists, today, shows far less traditional religious doctrine among top researchers than in the general population, plus a general unwillingness to talk about religion among these researchers. Wootton doesn't refer to that recent research in his new book, but his description of Galileo and his eagerness to avoid airing the depth of his religious skepticism sounds a lot like many leading scientists today.)

Despite what Galileo's religious apologists want to claim about him, the fact is that he all but abandoned orthodox Christianity, Wootton finds. At one point, Wootton describes part of Galileo's "private irreligion" this way: "Galileo sought to live with the idea that we do not know what the universe is for, even though certain aspects of it suggest that it was designed for a purpose."

In Wootton's book, Galileo is not an angry bomb thrower.
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