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Galileo's Daughter [Kindle Edition]

Dava Sobel
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (316 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of Galileo's daughter, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has written a biography unlike any other of the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics- indeed of modern science altogether." Galileo's Daughter also presents a stunning portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me." Galileo's Daughter dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishment of a mythic figure whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo's grand public life and Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. In that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, one man sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. With all the human drama and scientific adventure that distinguished Dava Sobel's previous book Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story

Editorial Reviews Review

Everyone knows that Galileo Galilei dropped cannonballs off the leaning tower of Pisa, developed the first reliable telescope, and was convicted by the Inquisition for holding a heretical belief--that the earth revolved around the sun. But did you know he had a daughter? In Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel (author of the bestselling Longitude) tells the story of the famous scientist and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. Sobel bases her book on 124 surviving letters to the scientist from the nun, whom Galileo described as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and tenderly attached to me." Their loving correspondence revealed much about their world: the agonies of the bubonic plague, the hardships of monastic life, even Galileo's occasional forgetfulness ("The little basket, which I sent you recently with several pastries, is not mine, and therefore I wish you to return it to me").

While Galileo tangled with the Church, Maria Celeste--whose adopted name was a tribute to her father's fascination with the heavens--provided moral and emotional support with her frequent letters, approving of his work because she knew the depth of his faith. As Sobel notes, "It is difficult today ... to see the Earth at the center of the Universe. Yet that is where Galileo found it." With her fluid prose and graceful turn of phrase, Sobel breathes life into Galileo, his daughter, and the earth-centered world in which they lived. --Sunny Delaney

From Publishers Weekly

Despite its title, this impressive book proves to be less the story of Galileo's elder daughter, the oldest of his three illegitimate children, and more the story of Galileo himself and his trial before the Inquisition for arguing that Earth moves around the Sun. That familiar tale is given a new slant by Sobel's translationAfor the first time into EnglishAof the 124 surviving letters to Galileo by his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, a Clarisse nun who died at age 33; his letters to her are lost, presumably destroyed by Maria Celeste's convent after her death. Her letters may not in themselves justify a book; they are devout, full of pious love for the father she addresses as "Sire," only rarely offering information or insight. But Sobel uses them as the accompaniment to, rather than the core of, her story, sounding the element of faith and piety so often missing in other retellings of Galileo's story. For Sobel shows that, in renouncing his discoveries, Galileo acted not just to save his skin but also out of a genuine need to align himself with his church. With impressive skill and economy, she portrays the social and psychological forces at work in Galileo's trial, particularly the political pressures of the Thirty Years' War, and the passage of the plague through Italy, which cut off travel between Florence, where Galileo lived, and Rome, the seat of the Pope and the Inquisition, delaying Galileo's appearance there and giving his enemies time to conspire. In a particularly memorable way, Sobel vivifies the hard life of the "Poor Clares," who lived in such abject poverty and seclusion that many were driven mad by their confinement. It's a wholly involving tale, a worthy follow-up (after four years) to Sobel's surprise bestseller, Longitude. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4833 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books (May 26, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002VQ7PWW
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,903 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
115 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science, technology, and religion November 26, 1999
In her previous book, Longitude, Dava Sobel showed how technology (the construction of a sea-worthy clock) solved the problem of determining a ship's longitudinal position in the ocean. In Galileo's Daughter, we see how technology, i.e. the invention of the telescope, gave rise to a an intellectual problem -- how to reconcile truths of science with those of faith. Galileo never intended to contradict the church, but hoped to present the Copernican system of the world as merely an alternative hypothesis to the Ptolemaic view that the earth was at the center of the world. Sobel uses his correspondence with his daughter, a nun, to provide the context of his struggles that ultimately led to his conviction by the Inquisition. As a resuslt of his house arrest, Galileo worked during the last years of his life on Two New Sciences, a work perhaps even more important than the Dialogues on the Two Chief World Systems, and one that laid the foundation for Newton's Principia. Beautifully woven into Galileo's story are the events of the 17th century: the Thirty Years' War, the bubonic plague, the role of the Medicis and that of Pope Urban VIII
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207 of 219 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galileo New? In This Gem Of A Book YES! With A Twist! November 28, 1999
Dava Sobel has accomplished what is nearly impossible when dealing with a subject who is as well known, and documented as the life of Galileo. There must be literally hundreds of books on the man, and his works. Dava Sobel not only finds new source information, the letters of Galileo's eldest Daughter Sister Maria Celeste, but also uses them to expand on what is commonly known about Galileo the Scientist, the accused Heretic, and gives us Galileo the Father. It could be argued that the book is as much about Galileo as his Daughter, but that would be misplacing the emphasis of the book. We learn of the extremely harsh life of Cloistered Nuns, the medicines that Galileo's Daughter made and treated him with. This to me was fascinating as opposed to just knowing that Galileo was often sickly. From the detail in the book one could recreate these medicinal treatments if one chose to. This type of detail would not normally interest me, but here it is presented as a Daughter trying to maintain the physical health, as well as constantly buttressing the man's faith as he was accused, tried, sentenced, and watched his life's greatest work banned by his own Church. And to have this torment take place with the consent of a man that Galileo counted as a friend, both prior to his being Pope, and when he became Pope Urban VIII. I feel the Authoress did a brilliant job of handling the religious issue. Rarely can this be attempted without the writer being branded anti-Catholic. She was able to state the facts, without editorial comment, by which she successfully navigated a secular minefield. Some of the facts are so petty and mean-spirited that was it not for the fact they came from Vatican Records, Dava Sobel would find herself the target of the narrow-minded. Read more ›
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is and isn't August 5, 2001
Sobel's biography of Galileo does many things. As a result, it doesn't cover any one of its aspects in tremendous depth, but does do a good job of covering each of them. This also helps make the book more enjoyable to read. A straight up, full frontal discussion of the great scientist's theories on motion would have been tough for a reader not well-versed in math and physics. By contrast, when Sobel talks about Galileo's scientific breakthroughs, it's clear what the subject is, even if some details are left out.
It also hits some new territtory in its revealing of Galileo, the person, especially his relationship with his daughter. Her correspondence with him shows a woman of ironclad (almost self-flagellating) faith, devoted love for her father (which he clearly shared) and the two of them as just ordinary folks who worry not only about the movement of earth, but also about the laundry. Galileo is also is shown to have a sense of humor; when fined for not wearing his uniform at university, he circulated a tongue-in-cheek poem asking if clothes were really necessary at all.
The book also does a nice job of illuminating Galileo's true greatest feat - changing our definition of "science". In his time, the "natural philosophers" held that the universe was unchanging, that math was useless as a tool to describe the world, and that "if Aristotle said it, it must be true." These concepts are total anathema to science today, thanks largely to Galileo, who disproved them.
With due respect, I'd also like to correct a few errors in some other reviews. Galileo's book "A Treatise on the Tides", did indeed try to use the tides to prove that the earth was not stationary in space. But he claimed that it was earth's motion which caused tides, not the Moon.
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115 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Science, Faith and a Parable January 5, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a super book which brings to life the daily routines of the 17th century -- including those life of a cloistered nun -- while telling a great love story, recounting the development in Europe and Italy of modern physics, and describing the political and academic intrigues and jealousies that led to the banning in Italy of the Copernican theory of the universe. Yet, at the same time as Galileo endured persecution by the inquisition and was forced to recant his ideas, buoyed by the love of his friends and, especially, his remarkable daughter, Marie Celeste, he retained both his religious faith and his confidence in science, and continued to work, producing some of his finest work even while under house arrest.
Galileo's story continues to have significance in our present era, when science, and particularly biology, is under attack by political and religious fundamentalists. Sobel's book shows the pettiness and ultimate impotence of such attacks in the face of courageous, ethical minds such as Galileo's and the force and beauty of nature. Best of all, she brings this point home without pedantry or proselytizing, but rather by telling the story simply, as it occurred: and indeed, "Eppur, si muove."
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A very compelling read
A good read. I could easily put myself in the time period and gain an appreciation for the difficulty in presenting power with truth they don't want to hear.
Published 21 days ago by E.JS
3.0 out of 5 stars I was a bit bored
I wanted to know about the intersection of religion and science during the Renaissance, so this seemed like a good book to read. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Nancy Lamers
4.0 out of 5 stars ‘There was only one trial of Galileo, and yet it seems there were a...
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 more
Published 2 months ago by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A favorite book
This is an excellent historical novel based on letters that Galilleo's daughter wrote to him while in a convent. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sally Peavy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story
Very well written. Love historical biographies to begin with. This one offered a detailed glimpse into life in Italy during Galileo's time. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Susan Marie Sarkes
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunities
The writer could have done so much more by turning this into a novel. Instead it is a retelling of the most famous parts of Galileo 's story, with the most boring details of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kristine123
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
this book was amazing. Well written and the ending is hauntingly beautiful. Sure see Galileo in a new way through his daughters eyes.
Published 4 months ago by Vera L. Ziegler
4.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful exploration of the struggle between religion and science
I typically don't read biographies, but I was so taken by _Madame Chiang Kai Shek_ and Sobel's _Longitude_, I couldn't resist. Read more
Published 4 months ago by doc peterson
4.0 out of 5 stars History Made Interesting
It was a very interesting book and provided a lot of insight into the life of Galileo. I would like to now read the author's book on Longitudes.
Published 6 months ago by Anita Beem
5.0 out of 5 stars Science, Faith, and Love
I spend time reading and looking up information presented in the book. Not only a wonderful story, but without a doubt a book that must be kept for research and share information... Read more
Published 6 months ago by mdamon
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