Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
Galileo's Ideas and Their Defense
on May 18, 2002
The Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo consists of four works by Galileo Galilei: The Starry Messenger, Letters on Sunspots, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, and The Assayer. They are each wonderfully translated by Stillman Drake. He omits unnecessary parts of the texts, to prevent verbosity or boredom, while still giving the reader the full sense of each work. Drake is a professor of the History of Science at the University of Toronto. Before each of Galileo's works, Drake gives an introduction which details the circumstances and events prompting Galileo to take up the pen. Drake presents an excellent history of the times and atmosphere along with the political forces that permeated the setting of early seventeenth century Italian academia. One gets a real feel for what Galileo was up against in presenting his ideas in the face of ecclesiastical and philosophical opposition.
The Starry Messenger is Galileo's account of his first uses of his homemade telescope. He details his observations of the four newly discovered moons of Jupiter and several stars that can now be seen with the telescope. His Letters on Sunspots are a retort to another astronomer's theories on the nature of the phenomenon. In the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, Galileo puts up a staunch defense to the church in his adopting the Copernican heliocentric model of the universe. After being banned from teaching this opinion, Galileo makes a suave effort to communicate his ideas in a defense on the nature of comets in The Assayer.
This is the story of Galileo verses old dogma. One cannot help but sympathize with Galileo in his frustration in communicating what he believed to be true. In light of our current knowledge of the solar system and the logical arguments Galileo puts forth it is hard not to feel a bit of the same frustration. This book is a great treatise on Galileo's ideas and his tenacity in defending them. Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems would be an excellent companion to this book. Drake has published a translation of this work also. Galileo's thoughts and observations mark a milestone in the history of astronomy, and Drake's book venerates the man and his teachings.