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Along Came Galileo Paperback – November 1, 1999
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About the Author
Jeanne Bendick, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, is the author and illustrator of many books, primarily in the field of science. Her work has always been distinguished by her remarkable ability to express complex concepts in simple language, and to make difficult subjects interesting and comprehensible to the general reader. Among her many books are Archimedes and the Door of Science, Along Came Galileo, and Galen and the Gateway to Medicine.
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Top Customer Reviews
Bendick presents a pretty balanced view of Galileo when it comes to his religious faith versus his scientific doctrine. She gets into the details of the story such as the Pope's political motivations, his relationship with Galileo, Galileo's pride, and other things which complicate the story more than we're usually told. She does a good job of explaining that Galileo was not some atheist crusader or even a Deist, but a faithful Catholic who had no intention of besmirching God or the Bible. I really appreciate that. (Rodney Stark does a great job of explaining the entire affair for adults in "For the Glory of God").
I do think she could have gone a little farther in distinguishing the difference between Aristotle/Ptolemy and the Catholic Church. At that time, all scholars were enthralled with the exodus of Greek manuscripts from the East, which hindered astronomy. It had not been hindered earlier in the Middle Ages when Catholic scholastics were studying the stars without them. It's an important nuance which she mentions only one time.
But overall I think she gets points for not making the Pope or the Catholic church out to be the Big Bad Wolf in the story, and Galileo a martyr for his cause (as the lovely illustrated "Starry Messenger" does, by Peter Sis). She instead paints him as a crusader for the cause of empirical science in the middle of a politically difficult time. She comes out ultimately on his side as an iconoclast, but still deserves kudos for the effort to be balanced.
What made Galileo so normal? Well, he had problems at school -- his father wanted him to study things that didn't interest him. He had money troubles trying to support his family, and he had to relocate for jobs. He got stuck in the middle of a power struggle. He had lots of houseguests, and even took in boarders. He liked to show off (a little). Kids can relate to all of that.
What made Galileo extraordinary is the way he never gave up. This book does a fine job demonstrating his pursuit of knowledge, his discoveries, and his inventions.
My biggest concern was how the book would treat the church vs. science conflict -- it is so often framed as "backwards, repressive church squashes free-thinking genius." Instead, that conflict is dealt with fairly and honestly. The church was the political power of the day, there were factions, and Galileo was aligned with a faction. The other faction used him as a flashpoint to pick apart the power of his faction, and he was stuck in the middle.
I think the most fascinating section of the book dealt with Galileo's telescope and how he used it to study the night skies. I liked the helpful warning on page 52: NEVER NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN...
Throughout the book, Ms. Bendick's illustrations are clear and to-the-point. The map on page 6 is very helpful through the whole book. This book brings science to life, and I can't rate it highly enough.
The illustrations are somewhat primitive, but not bad. The story is
told in a way that should spark interest in kids and is very informative.
It does not merely tell about the science that Galileo was involved in
but also tells his own life history and famous people he met or was
influenced by. It includes direct quotes from Galileo.
Now getting back to the original subject, Galileo, while we did enjoy the first 4 chapters of the book, my eyebrow did raise a couple of times to facts that seemed to be in direct contrast to what we read in our history and science curriculum. Since chapter 5 was so badly written, I am hesitant to believe that everything the previous chapters contained was academically sound. That being said, does anyone have a twaddle-free recommendation for a book that you have enjoyed reading to your own children or students? I am looking for a book containing living history and facts that capture the whole life of Galileo, not glimpses that misconstrue so badly that the essence of the person is lost, thank you.