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The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition (Great Discoveries) Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 26, 2009

2.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 26, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly

Hofstadter (Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples) draws upon his intimate knowledge of Italian culture, literature and art-as well as new material released from Vatican archives-for this political, scientific and psychological examination of the "first great clash of religion and science," between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, two seminal figures who were, incredibly, once friends. The context for Galileo's 1633 trial involved political and scientific upheavals involving better technology (Galileo's major improvements on the telescope) and a 1616 Church edict against heliocentrism meant to protect the Scripture from the free interpretation of laypeople. Despite the political cost, Galileo produced a philosophic treatise on the subject, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems (originally licensed for publication by the Church) that championed the "banned hypothesis thesis" and suggested that astronomical references in scripture were metaphorical. Hofstadter tells the concise, absorbing tale of Galileo's persecution with both sides of the conflict in mind, charting with grace the genesis of the Western world's most persistent ideological divide.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Dan Hofstadter is the author of The Earth Moves and Falling Palace: A Romance of Naples (a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir). He has lived in Florence and Naples and speaks and reads Italian fluently. He lives in Rensselaerville, New York.

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Product Details

  • Series: Great Discoveries
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393066509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066500
  • ASIN: B004R96UK4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,288,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
A surprisingly small portion of this book is devoted to what the subtitle promises: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition. Much of the book could be described as the life and times of Galileo. The author, Dan Hofstadter, clearly well-versed in the culture of that era wants to share his knowledge of it with us, whether or not it's germane to Galileo and the Roman Inquisition. No doubt the author would argue that an understanding of the culture is necessary to an understanding of the Roman Inquisition, and of course, that's true. But I found the digressions too extensive. After all, I read the book to learn about Galileo and the Roman Inquisition, and I didn't find expositions about such topics as the perspective needed for creating frescoes on church domes to advance the main topic of the book, even though Hofstadter tied a slender thread to it. Such digressions in the book are too extensive, in my opinion, and I found myself alternating between "Wow, this author sure knows a lot" and "When are we going to get to the Roman Inquisition?"

The book does get around to covering the Roman Inquisition, the details of which are partly supplied by extant records and the balance of which is conjecture (clearly identified as suppositional by the author), and the book provides a good explanation of how and why Galileo came into conflict with the Church. And to be fair, I did enjoy much of the extraneous material.

This is not the typical history of science book. Nor is it a typical history book. If what you're looking for is a concise history of the Galileo and the Roman Inquisition, you may be disappointed. If you're willing to go off on side trips into the art and scientific culture of the times, you should find this book valuable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be a disappointment. The subtitle is Galileo and the Roman Inquisition, yet only one third of the book is actually about this subject and compared to others that I have read I found this treatment to be largely deficient. The treatment of the many subjects covered in the book is very scattered, with many tangential digressions that, in my opinion, while interesting impaired the continuity of the book. Instead of a linear well-ordered presentation, the book rambles from subject to subject and the reader is then left to piece the story together for himself or herself. Some readers, particularly those who do not like ordered histories, may appreciate this approach, but I did not. The epilogue of the book clearly illustrated what I found most annoying about the book. Instead of a discussion of Galileo's life after his trial, in which he built the foundation of physics that Newton built upon, the epilogue contains a discussion of painting. It clearly shows the bias of the book towards art history instead of the history of science, and I wanted more about Galileo's contributions to science.

The first two-thirds of the book deals with Galileo, his work with the telescope and Maffeo Barberni (Pope Urban VIII). The biographical material concerning Galileo is very fragmentary and incomplete. If this is your only source of information about Galileo you would hard pressed to understand why he is often spoken of as the father of physics and he laid the groundwork for Newton. His telescopic investigations are interesting, but are presented in a more coherent manner in many other books (I recommend Galileo's Universe by Maran and Marschall as a much better source for this information).
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Hofstadter uses an abhorrent amount of words in the hopes he will be considered intelligent. Maybe stick to the topic that is implied by the title of your book!
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