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Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

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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. 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 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. 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." The son of a musician, Galileo Gahlei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the astounding argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced to spend his last years under house arrest. Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was thirteen when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength throughout his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then. 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 being 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 Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story.


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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. 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 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. 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." The son of a musician, Galileo Gahlei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the astounding argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced to spend his last years under house arrest. Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was thirteen when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength throughout his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then. 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 being 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 Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story.

30 review for Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Well, it’s really about Galileo. The daughter thing is a hook, and I found that to be the weakest part of the book. Galileo, in this historical memoir, has had three children by a woman not his wife. The daughters are thus unmarriageable, and are sent to a convent. The daughter of the title sends him letters, usually including requests for money. This book provides considerable detail about the travails the great scientist endured in his quest to explain the world. The Catholic Church is the pre Well, it’s really about Galileo. The daughter thing is a hook, and I found that to be the weakest part of the book. Galileo, in this historical memoir, has had three children by a woman not his wife. The daughters are thus unmarriageable, and are sent to a convent. The daughter of the title sends him letters, usually including requests for money. This book provides considerable detail about the travails the great scientist endured in his quest to explain the world. The Catholic Church is the pre-eminent political institution of its time, and thus, Galileo must deal with the reality he inhabits, trying to find ways around the silliness of revealed truth. It is entertaining and interesting. Not a must read, and feel free to skip the letters from his daughter, but a worthwhile read nonetheless.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Einstein said of Galileo that he was "the father of modern physics - of modern science altogether". We think of him as the father of astronomy. But how much do we really know about his life? The answer, surprisingly, is quite a lot. This book, entitled Galileo's Daughter is a dual biography, both of Galileo and of his eldest daughter, a cloistered nun of the Poor Clares. It is also in part a fascinating chronicle of a 17th Century clash between Science and Catholic doctrine; arguably the most hi Einstein said of Galileo that he was "the father of modern physics - of modern science altogether". We think of him as the father of astronomy. But how much do we really know about his life? The answer, surprisingly, is quite a lot. This book, entitled Galileo's Daughter is a dual biography, both of Galileo and of his eldest daughter, a cloistered nun of the Poor Clares. It is also in part a fascinating chronicle of a 17th Century clash between Science and Catholic doctrine; arguably the most historically significant and intense battle between religious belief and scientific knowledge. Sobel's account is compiled in the main from the 120 letters (translated from the Italian) written by Suor Maria Celeste, which she weaves into her narrative. Sadly none of Galileo's letters still survive, although it is clear that they were in contact daily, and that Maria was his most trusted confidante. Galileo had 3 illegitimate children to care for. Maria (formerly Virginia) was his eldest daughter, and was placed in the convent at the age of 13. The life there was almost unbelievably gruelling to modern sensibilities, but the letters convey how privileged and honoured she felt to be serving in this capacity. The next daughter - also placed in the convent - was a depressive, and Maria attempted in her life to combine her duties as a nun with caring for both of them. She also constantly tried to make peace between her father and her brother. There are numerous details of a simple dish she would have cooked and sent along in a basket, or a garment she would have painstakingly sewn, despite her life of extreme poverty and chronic ill-health. The convent was in bad repair, and the nuns did not have any money. Galileo frequently helped out financially, but the nuns still had to suffer insufficient food, heating or anything approaching sanitation. Maria made light of her troubles, and Galileo was dependent on her loyalty, support and strength, saying that she had an "exquisite mind". Although his part of the conversation is missing, it can be inferred, and they were clearly devoted to one another. Galileo was born in 1564, and pursued his dream of studying mathematics and philosophy, despite his parents' wishes that he become a doctor. He taught at the universities of Pisa and Padua, but this position seemed to confer little respect, because of the subjects he taught. However his reputation grew with his startlingly original investigations and discoveries. Eventually he secured the patronage of the Medici family. Among other things he managed to augment the power of the telescopic lens, thus enabling him to study the moon and stars, and discovered the first four of Jupiter's moons. There were further controversial scientific discoveries when he discovered sunspots. He challenged Aristotelian physics, and this angered his colleagues. But the main tragedy of his life stems from the time when Galileo published his "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems". He had thought for a long time that Copernicus was correct in postulating that the Earth revolves around the sun, and with Galileo's mathematical skills and the scientific instruments he had invented, he was able to establish proof. Maria's letters show the wavering stages of approval and disapproval of Galileo's conclusions by the Catholic Church. At first his theories were welcomed, then seen as a challenge to the Catholic faith; the greatest threat since Martin Luther. Eventually the reigning Pope (Urban VIII) - a former friend and supporter - deemed that Galileo had to undergo a Trial by the Inquisition in 1633. By now Galileo was in very poor health. He was charged that his work was heresy; that the motions of the heavens were for the Holy Fathers of the Church to rule on, not him. Galileo insisted throughout his gruelling trial (possibly involving torture) that he was a good Catholic, that his faith was true. Eventually he was released under a form of house arrest, but by now he was impoverished and never really recovered from the experience. The descriptions of Galileo's ordeal is set against a backdrop of bubonic plague throughout Europe, and the 30 years' war. Throughout Maria would care for him, offering constant support and prayers, cleaning and mending his clothes, preparing titbits, tonics and medicines to cheer him. She transcribed all his notes and never doubted his conclusions or faith. She died at 34 of dysentry, only months after he had sold his beloved house in Tuscany to move closer to the convent when his sentence had been commuted to house imprisonment. I was surprised that I enjoyed this book as much as I did. The two main characters are vividly brought to life through the description of events and the details, which are sometimes quite homely, running through the correspondence. Galileo's inventions are fascinating to read about; they are described chronologically as they occur. Both Galileo's brilliant mind and his conscience shine through this work. His struggles to reconcile his scientific findings with his Catholic beliefs are particularly well drawn and poignant, although the descriptions of his trial make for harrowing reading. Throughout there is the devotion of his daughter, who read and commented on his work, sometimes adding thoughts of her own. She was his closest ally. The subheading of this book is "A Drama of Science, Faith and Love". It is a perfect description of the book, which itself is a fascinating read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    What a spectacular book! My advice to you is to violently discard the grossly inferior book you are currently wasting your time with for this one instead. Toss it aside like the trash it is. This is a far better substitute. Do yourself some good instead. The mythology of Galileo, as truly the first modern scientist, is, of course, both revered and legendary. His condemnation by the Church, his cannon-balls from Pisa Tower and his ingenious improvements on the telescope--well known stories, to be What a spectacular book! My advice to you is to violently discard the grossly inferior book you are currently wasting your time with for this one instead. Toss it aside like the trash it is. This is a far better substitute. Do yourself some good instead. The mythology of Galileo, as truly the first modern scientist, is, of course, both revered and legendary. His condemnation by the Church, his cannon-balls from Pisa Tower and his ingenious improvements on the telescope--well known stories, to be sure--are re-told here with fresh insight and clarity. Importantly, though, is that I felt that one can not help but be struck by the contemporary relevance in these stories. The truths that science reveals and the unwillingness that a particular ideology or political group exhibits towards accepting those truths are just as damaging today as they were 400 years ago. Consider Galileo’s cannon-balls: the thinking at the time was that the speed of an object in free-fall was proportional to its weight. Galileo reasoned that it was intuitively wrong to suggest that, from a height of 100 feet, a 100 pound ball would hit the ground, while a 1 pound ball, dropped at the same time, would have only traveled one foot. When he tried the experiment, the discrepancy between the two weights was merely a few inches. As I read of how some of Galileo’s contemporaries’ refused to accept these discoveries, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the animosity displayed by some toward climate change. Just as some are willing to disregard the overwhelming support of whole hypothesis because of a few findings to the contrary, so too were Galileo critics willing to disregard his whole hypothesis because of those two inches. His response was that they ignored the ninety foot discrepancy the old dogma suggested, to focus instead on his two inches. Yet today so many are comfortable ignoring the facts of climate change, focusing instead on those two inches of debate. And just as Galileo’s two inch discrepancy was due to air resistance, so too will science address all the complex facets inherent in the vigorous and healthy debate of climate change. If it is evolution, stem cell therapies, projected water shortages or the impending energy crisis, so many today are willing to disregard science when it interferes with their comfort. We have not only forgotten Galileo, we have reduced him to a myth, a story only. Someone who played with a telescope instead of someone who changed the world. But, in addition to all this, perhaps even above all of this, the book is a beautiful story of the love between a father and his daughter. Through the surviving correspondence of Galileo’s daughter, a bright yet reclusive nun, we see the esteemed scientist in a whole new way. As a person, a father, rather than an obscure legend. Moving and simple and powerful. All told, this was beautifully done.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    After 150 pages I decided if this book didn’t end by smashing the patriarchy, I didn’t want to read anymore. And since it would end in 1642, I gave up. Say what you will about ‘the times,’ it’s impossible to buy the idea that a well-off, well-educated, intelligent and self-respecting public figure can’t know he’s participating in screwing over half of humanity. Back in the days of Galileo, the author tells us, it was atypical for (male) academics to marry. And so it was with Galileo and his cont After 150 pages I decided if this book didn’t end by smashing the patriarchy, I didn’t want to read anymore. And since it would end in 1642, I gave up. Say what you will about ‘the times,’ it’s impossible to buy the idea that a well-off, well-educated, intelligent and self-respecting public figure can’t know he’s participating in screwing over half of humanity. Back in the days of Galileo, the author tells us, it was atypical for (male) academics to marry. And so it was with Galileo and his contemporaries, who didn’t marry but nevertheless enjoyed living in conjugal union with someone from the grateful lower classes, and begetting bastard children with them, despite being “devout” Catholics and, in Galileo’s case, personal friends with the freaking Pope. Now if one of your children is a boy, you might, like Galileo, go to the trouble of getting him legitimatized through your political and clerical (hypocritical) relationships, even though he is a sullen and not terribly sharp child. If the other children are girls, bright and dutiful as they may be, put those inconvenient lesser beings in a convent, which operates like an adult orphanage, a workhouse made up of cast-off daughters who live in poverty, as they would in any poorhouse, where they can labor for the church without further ado and through no choice of their own. What is it but a form of white slavery? There aren’t too many books that push my feminist button so bad, but I found it all reprehensible. And to top it off the daughter in question was a fawning and overly loving person with apparently a big forgiving heart that made me want to puke. The other daughter spent her days depressed and in the convent infirmary for want of a sharp object. Quite rightly, in my book. There should be another “Galileo’s Daughter” devoted to the one who was right in the head. If you are really have to know everything about Galileo, you’d probably like this book, which was not uninteresting. As for me, enough was enough and thank God it’s over.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    So, given the title you'd think this would be about Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, who he called "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me." Perhaps you might have thought that through her eyes--this account is partly based upon and includes several of her letters--you might gain insight into the mind of the man Einstein called "the father of modern physics--indeed of modern science altogether." Given she's described of "exquisite mind" perhaps yo So, given the title you'd think this would be about Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, who he called "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me." Perhaps you might have thought that through her eyes--this account is partly based upon and includes several of her letters--you might gain insight into the mind of the man Einstein called "the father of modern physics--indeed of modern science altogether." Given she's described of "exquisite mind" perhaps you thought she might have contributed to his experiments or thinking. If you're expecting any of that, you're going to be disappointed. Really, this is a quick-reading biography of Galileo, and there are several chapters that deal with his life before his daughter enters into the story. And given she was a cloistered nun from her teenage years, hers was not a life of wide scope or interest aside from her being the daughter of a famous father. Her letters, though they show a loving daughter who had no doubts about her father's faith, don't reveal a remarkable intelligence--though that would be hard given the letters in the book are filled with little more than such mundane details as grocery and laundry lists and asking Galileo to fix a broken clock. What seemed to have animated the book is Sobel's desire to argue there there is no reason to see science and faith as opposed, and to present Galileo as a devout and obedient son of the Catholic Church, particularly as demonstrated through his loving relationship with a supportive, devout daughter dedicated to the religious life. The Catholic Church both revered shouldn't be slurred with condemning Galileo according to Sobel: "Technically, however, the anti-Copernican Edict of 1616 was issued by the Congregation of the Index, not by the Church. Similarly, in 1633, Galileo was tried and sentenced by the Holy Office of the Inquisition, not by the Church.” Moreover, Sobel related, the Catholic pontiffs who condoned both rulings didn't "invoke papal infallibility." Alrighty then, that must have consoled Galileo: who was forced to renounce the Copernican theory, found his books banned, was put under house arrest for the rest of his life--after dealing with the Inquisition and the threat of being put under torture or even burned at the stake--as the Astronomer Bruno had been in 1600 by the Inquisition just decades before. The sad thing to me is as Sobel presented it Galileo had done everything he could to follow Church teaching and rulings. He submitted his book on Copernican theory to the Church's censor--told them to change whatever they wanted to, got a license to print it and the Church's imprimatur. But the Pope was convinced that Galileo was mocking him personally in the book, had him prosecuted, and the book appeared in the next Index of Proscribed Books where it would stay for 200 years. But we shouldn't blame the Catholic Church. Nope, it was all just a "tragic mutual misunderstanding." That all reads to me not so much as apologia as satire, yet Sobel does convince me that Galileo truly didn't want a breach with the Church and was a man of faith and science. But for me that just makes more poignant, and more disgraceful, the bullying of an elderly old man by the machinery of the Church. If the book had a strength though, it was how lucidly it explained the science and Galileo's discoveries--just why he can right be called a father of modern science. And after reading some very dense histories lately, it was something of a relief to read something easier that you could cut through like a heated knife through butter. But I didn't think I got more than a rather superficial gloss on Galileo's life and times.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    DNF around 30%. The title of this book is misleading: it's really a book about Galileo and only secondarily about his daughter, who was clearly the Human Interest Angle to illuminate the life of a Great Man. Despite his devout Catholicism, Galileo had three illegitimate children with his mistress/housekeeper. While Galileo had his son legitimized, both daughters were consigned as young girls to a convent, where they lived in abject poverty and struggled with poor health. He did send occasional g DNF around 30%. The title of this book is misleading: it's really a book about Galileo and only secondarily about his daughter, who was clearly the Human Interest Angle to illuminate the life of a Great Man. Despite his devout Catholicism, Galileo had three illegitimate children with his mistress/housekeeper. While Galileo had his son legitimized, both daughters were consigned as young girls to a convent, where they lived in abject poverty and struggled with poor health. He did send occasional gifts to the convent (along with his mending and papers for his daughter Maria to transcribe). Galileo's correspondence to Maria has been lost, so we can't learn how he regarded her. However, her letters to him survived and are interspersed with chapters about Galileo's life, scientific discoveries, and the various factions skirmishing for power in the church. Most of the letters involve Maria lavishly praising her father, abasing herself for her own ignorance, thanking him for any small tokens, worrying about his health, and offering occasional thoughts on his projects. While her letters were never self-pitying, I became increasingly annoyed with Galileo, who was too busy staring into the sun and counting spots to properly care for his daughters. The book provides a well-written overview of Galileo's life and discoveries, so if that's your reason for reading, you may very well enjoy it. Personally, I was hoping to read more about the life of a 17th century woman involved in science, so this was a disappointment.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    As the daughter of a physicist, I couldn't resist this book. It is a biography of both Galileo and his older daughter, who was a nun in a local monastery. Her letters to Galileo are the foundation of the book. I enjoyed reading the history of Galileo's trial for heresy and also the day-to-day events that mostly comprise his daughter's letters. A fascinating look into the life of Galileo and 17th-century Italy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Galileo, Galileo, Galileo Figaro: MAGNIFICO-O-O-O! SCIENCE AND RELIGION My biggest question, after reading this book, is what did Galileo believe? Science has canonized him as one of their patron saints - and rightfully so. The man was a genius. But he was also a good Catholic - or at least he appeared to be. When the church told him to do something, he did it. Yes, the church treated him completely unfairly. And when one is arguing against those speaking with the authority of God, it's difficul Galileo, Galileo, Galileo Figaro: MAGNIFICO-O-O-O! SCIENCE AND RELIGION My biggest question, after reading this book, is what did Galileo believe? Science has canonized him as one of their patron saints - and rightfully so. The man was a genius. But he was also a good Catholic - or at least he appeared to be. When the church told him to do something, he did it. Yes, the church treated him completely unfairly. And when one is arguing against those speaking with the authority of God, it's difficult to complain about ignorant laws or the injustice of being charged ex post facto. But throughout it all, he apparently maintained some sort of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps he didn't buy everything the church was selling, but he certainly didn't cast it all off either. I was surprised to see how many of these men were devoted followers of God. Not just Galileo, but Copernicus, et al... Because it seems to me Scientists today make Galileo out to be the enemy of the church, and I don't believe he was. Don't take this the wrong way - I'm no enemy of Science. I'm all for Science. But I don't think it's fair to the memory of Galileo to set him up as a propaganda piece. Scientists, especially, should know that the world is much more complicated than that. And, while we're talking about Science, it was brought up that Galileo's most enduring discovery wasn't his star-gazing. It was his use of experimentation. Testing, and testing, and retesting. Taking on the word of Aristotle by proving something. Sure, his discoveries are important - but he changed the way we approach problems - and that impacts all branches of Science - whereas discovering some moons mostly effects astronomy. As for Religion, I found it odd that Sobel didn't talk about Luther more. He gets mentioned a couple times, whereas The Thirty Years War gets brought up often. Part of the reason the church (and when I say the church, I'm talking about the Catholic church here, not the Protestants... they had their own problems at the moment...) was so hard on Galileo was because its authority had been challenged in The Thirty Years War. And yes, that's more in the time-frame, but certainly they hadn't forgotten about The 95 Theses. That was the catalyst. Either way, the church was fighting an uphill battle with Galileo. I imagine one could argue that God was on his side. Science at least was. This brings up one of Galileo's main points. Nature cannot contradict the Bible. If we see something in nature that contradicts scripture, either we aren't looking at it correctly, or our interpretation of scripture is incorrect. He says, "Holy Scripture cannot err and the decrees therein contained are absolutely true and and inviolable. I should only have added that, though Scripture cannot err, its expounders and interpreters are liable to err in many ways..." This is THE paradox of a faith that teaches the infallibility of Scripture. At the time, these claims were edgy, no doubt. But even so, I'd contend Galileo was still a good decent Catholic. When the church told him to censor his book, he did. He blacked out "the offending passages." Although, Sobel adds that he did so, "with very light strokes." This brings me to some last thoughts dealing with censorship. I heard that Stalin censored the same way. He'd outright ban books, or he'd have everyone black out offending passages. And, I know I'm going out on a limb here... I know I'm getting away from Galileo... but this is what really, REALLY worries me about Kindles and e-Books, and i-Pads, etc... That if someone comes along and wants to censor something, with books they have to go one at a time. With e-books, a person can just click - - - - - - - and it's gone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    Galileo had a daughter? So what? That question may be raised, which is understandable. Besides, all famous people do procreate, right? What makes Galileo’s Daughter so significant anyway? Well, if you read this book, you surely will change your mind. Dava Sobel again amazed me with her skill in combining history, science and human relations into one book. Not many authors could do such thing, I daresay. She successfully wove this story of a brave, intelligent, resourceful young woman, who had a g Galileo had a daughter? So what? That question may be raised, which is understandable. Besides, all famous people do procreate, right? What makes Galileo’s Daughter so significant anyway? Well, if you read this book, you surely will change your mind. Dava Sobel again amazed me with her skill in combining history, science and human relations into one book. Not many authors could do such thing, I daresay. She successfully wove this story of a brave, intelligent, resourceful young woman, who had a genius as her father and how both of them relied on each other to live in difficult times. By the way, his daughter was a cloistered nun with the name Maria Celeste. But that did not stop her from being her father’s rock. Her surviving correspondence with Galileo is the main ingredient used by Sobel to describe the dynamics of this unique father-daughter relationship. The contents varied; from her request to Galileo to buy her things such as herbs and linens, the news update on what was going on in her convent, to her consolation for Galileo when he was facing trials in Rome. Not only letters apparently, but she also made him clothes and medicines. It was as though she lived in the same house with him and took care of him. Walls and distance were not barriers. Imagine if they both had Blackberrys. This book elaborates much about his works, including the scandalous Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which upholds Copernicus’ theory that the earth revolves around the sun, which is also a book that required almost two centuries (!) to be dropped from the list of banned books by the Congregation of the Holy Office. Nevertheless, although they did not have rapidshare/mirc/torrent those days, it did not stop the book from being distributed in Italy and beyond. Couriers and diplomatic missions were walking around bringing a copy of Dialogue as they please. Galileo was lucky to have so many admirers in Europe, including even a few high ranking cardinals who felt enlightened when reading his works. One thing that bothers me was that Galileo did his best to ensure that Dialogue would not cause any ruckus. He used the proper channels, consulted to the relevant officials, gathered sufficient supports from prominent nobles and even sought an audience with the Pope to discuss the book! Nevertheless, one could always find a tiny bit of something to be used as incriminating evidence. Galileo finally admitted guilty and let himself (a frail 69 year old then) to be punished. Anyway, IMHO his punishment was not too depressing. House arrest in the residence of a Sienese cardinal who was one of his strong supporters? He could still write, received some guests (some with the permission from the Papal Office) and had correspondence with fellow scientists and family. C’mon, ‘twas not too bad, right? Seriously now, I understand that it was still hard for him. He had lots of enemies who would love to see him rot miserably. The pressure he had to face must have been horrendous. Having your ultimate work - which took decades in the making – banned and that you could not publish anything ever again, must be frustrating as hell. For future readers, please do not be disheartened from reading the scientific explanation in this book. First, there are lots of them anyway (haha). Secondly, they would give the readers insight on Galileo’s personal thinking, which sometimes could be so intriguing and cheeky at the same time. The historical account in this book, describing the flow of events and characters in that illustrious Renaissance era, is truly mesmerizing. The interaction between the states and duchies, the politics inside the Papal court and even the bubonic plague present a thrilling read. Back to Suor Maria Celeste, Galileo described her as a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness and most tenderly attached to him. I guess he realized that she was his greatest treasure and would be thankful if people could pay her a proper homage when thinking about how great a scientist he was. The Father of modern physics would not ‘exist’ without her, period. This is true testament to the adage “Behind a great man, there's a great woman”, am I correct? ;)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    This is a well researched historical novel about the relationship between Galileo and his eldest daughter Virginia Galilei (1600-1634). Apparently Galileo did not marry Marina Gamba of Venice even though they had 3 children together. The son Vincenzo was legitimized and studied law at the University of Pisa. The two girls were deemed to be un-marriageable so were sent off to become nuns when they were 11 years old. Virginia became Suor Maria Celeste and her sister Livia became Suor Archangela. T This is a well researched historical novel about the relationship between Galileo and his eldest daughter Virginia Galilei (1600-1634). Apparently Galileo did not marry Marina Gamba of Venice even though they had 3 children together. The son Vincenzo was legitimized and studied law at the University of Pisa. The two girls were deemed to be un-marriageable so were sent off to become nuns when they were 11 years old. Virginia became Suor Maria Celeste and her sister Livia became Suor Archangela. They were placed in the San Matteo Convent Arcetri of the Poor Clares order. Sobel based the story on the letters written by Suor Maria Celeste and according to Sobel the letters from Suor Maria were saved by Galileo, but his letters to her were destroyed on her death by the Mother Superior to protect the honor of the Order because of the conviction of Galileo by the Church. Sobel also researched the Vatican records, but she presented the delicate religious issues by stating only the facts. She did not go into much detail about the works of Galileo as there are well known and the book was about his relationship with the daughter. Suor Maria Celeste died in 1634 of dysentery. Sobel portrayed her as an intelligent woman well able to discuss Galileo's work with him with great understanding. She apparently proofed some of his manuscripts. I was surprised to learn that she is buried with him in his tomb. The book has relevance today as science is still under attack by political and religious fundamentalist even thought this is not the year 1600. This is an audio-book and George Guidall did his usual magnificent job narrating the story. If you are interested in science or history this book is for you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘There was only one trial of Galileo, and yet it seems there were a thousand –‘ 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 is the centre of the universe around which the earth and planets revolve. Galileo was punished by being placed under house arrest and ordered to publicly affirm his belief in the earth-centred universe. Galileo’s story is the stuff of legend. ‘There was only one trial of Galileo, and yet it seems there were a thousand –‘ 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 is the centre of the universe around which the earth and planets revolve. Galileo was punished by being placed under house arrest and ordered to publicly affirm his belief in the earth-centred universe. Galileo’s story is the stuff of legend. And yet, there are few references to the support given to Galileo by Suor Maria Celeste, a member of the order of Poor Clares in the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri. Born Virginia Galilei in 1600, she is the eldest of Galileo’s three illegitimate children and lived within the cloistered walls of San Matteo from 1613 until her death in 1634. In Galileo’s Daughter, Ms Sobel interweaves the stories of father and daughter. Suor Maria Celeste’s letters to Galileo have survived; his to her have not. Ms Sobel writes that his letters were probably destroyed by the Convent after her death: ‘In this fashion, the correspondence between father and daughter was long ago reduced to a monologue.’ The lives of father and daughter could not be in more stark contrast: she lived within the confines of a convent; much of his life was lived very publicly through his teaching, research and invention. We know about Galileo’s public life, but in this book we learn of domestic concerns, of his daughter’s preparation of pills and potions for his illness, of her mending and sewing for him and of preparing food for him. We learn as well that Galileo was a generous benefactor of the Convent, and that Suor Maria Celeste served as an apothecary and was sought out by the abbesses to write important letters. Although the title of the book is ’Galileo’s Daughter’ and the focus is on Suor Maria Celeste, it is Galileo’s life that occupies centre stage. Suor Maria Celeste’s letters provide another and different insight into Galileo’s life as well as raising quite a few questions about the treatment of daughters (especially illegitimate daughters in the 17th century). I admit that my primary focus was on Galileo, but I found myself liking Suor Maria Celeste and wanting to know more about her. This book brings them both to life. ‘Thus, to imagine an infinite universe was merely to grant almighty God his proper due.’ Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This is a biography of Galileo, told in part through letters written to him by his illegitimate daughter, a cloistered nun and Galileo's confidante. Over 125 letters written by her survive, though all of the letters from Galileo to his daughter have reportedly been lost or destroyed. While the familial relationship was interesting, I didn't feel as if the correspondence added much to the narrative, and it seemed as if most of the biographical information about Galileo came from other sources. As This is a biography of Galileo, told in part through letters written to him by his illegitimate daughter, a cloistered nun and Galileo's confidante. Over 125 letters written by her survive, though all of the letters from Galileo to his daughter have reportedly been lost or destroyed. While the familial relationship was interesting, I didn't feel as if the correspondence added much to the narrative, and it seemed as if most of the biographical information about Galileo came from other sources. As I am not particularly interested in astronomy, mathematics, or physics, I found most of the discussion of Galileo's findings and research a bit boring (I know it's all incredibly important and I respect that, I just don't care to read about it). I was interested in Galileo's treatment by the church, but at this point I feel like most of that information is common knowledge, and I almost felt as if Sobel's retelling of the story was like reading a high school textbook. I was unimpressed by her writing, and felt as if the use of the letters was too gimmicky - a way to appear to have a new angle on Galileo's life, but not really adding much overall. That being said, a very well-read friend of mine who reads biographies by the dozen loves this book - and feels that it was most certainly deserving of all the praise it has received. More science-minded individuals would probably enjoy it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I was really disappointed in this book. I knew when I purchased it that it wasn't actually about Galileo's daughter, that the story was almost entirely Galileo's. Still, I figured the the father/daughter relationship would provide some important framework for the story. It didn't really. This is a fairly dry biography of Galileo and the personal and professional events that shaped his life. There's not much more to it. In the book, Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, having been consigned to I was really disappointed in this book. I knew when I purchased it that it wasn't actually about Galileo's daughter, that the story was almost entirely Galileo's. Still, I figured the the father/daughter relationship would provide some important framework for the story. It didn't really. This is a fairly dry biography of Galileo and the personal and professional events that shaped his life. There's not much more to it. In the book, Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, having been consigned to a convent as a preteen, is now a nun who rarely sees her father and communicates with him via letters. Her letters to him have survived and many are included in the book, but they don't shed as much light on Galileo's life as I'd hoped. I got really, really bored with the narrative, which was a very straightforward telling of the events of Galileo's life. In my opinion, nonfiction is always best when it reads like a novel and not like a history book. Unfortunately, this was a history book. I didn't enjoy the read and didn't take much away from it. It was a disappointment.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I think I prefer this book to Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time which is also good, but not quite as captivating. Galileo's oldest child, born of his illicit liaison with the beautiful Marina Gamba of Venice, was thirteen years old when he placed her at the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri. He never married her mother, so he thought that the girl would be unmarriageable. Her given name was Virginia (after Galileo's sister), but when I think I prefer this book to Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time which is also good, but not quite as captivating. Galileo's oldest child, born of his illicit liaison with the beautiful Marina Gamba of Venice, was thirteen years old when he placed her at the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri. He never married her mother, so he thought that the girl would be unmarriageable. Her given name was Virginia (after Galileo's sister), but when she became a nun, she adopted the name Maria Celeste, a name inspired by her fathers work in astronomy (as in celestial). She was part of the Order of St. Clare, a contemplative order of nuns known as the Clarrises, or the Poor Clares. The order was named for the first female follower of St. Francis of Assisi. She initiated the tradition of work in the convents, filling the hours between daily offices with spinning and embroidery. The rules of the order enforced a very ascetic existence even compared to other convents, as all Poor Clares were dependent on alms. Galileo frequently sent financial assistance to the convent, but it was still a very difficult way to live. The book includes many excerpts from Maria Celeste's letters to her father, of which 124 letters survive. Although they wrote to each other frequently, Galileo's side of the correspondence has not been preserved. Galileo began his career as a professor of mathematics, but the work in astronomy for which he is best known began when, in 1609, he became the first person to point a telescope skyward. The telescope revealed previously unseen features on the moon, a closer view of the Milky Way than could be seen with the naked eye (revealing its dense clusters of stars), and the first four moons of Jupiter. For these discoveries, he won appointment as chief mathematician and philosopher at the court of Cosimo de Medici in 1610. He published a book, The Starry Messenger, describing his observations. It sold out within a week of publication. In letters to his former student Benedetto Castelli and to the Duchess Christina (daughter of Charles III of Lorraine) Galileo explained why he thought that the heliocentric view of universe was not in conflict with scripture. The first letter became widely circulated and a Dominican friar who heard about it, Tommaso Caccini, arrived at the Inquisition's offices in Rome to denounce Galileo for heresy. At the end of 1615, Galileo traveled to Rome hoping to clear his name of the suspicion of heresy. In 1616, Galileo was warned to curtail his studies of the motions of heavenly bodies and told that the subject was best left to the fathers of the Church. For seven years he obeyed, turning his attention to other issues, such as using the moons of Jupiter to calculate longitude and developing a compound microscope with which he observed insects. In 1623 a new pope, Pope Urban VIII, took office. Galileo knew him personally; he had demonstrated his telescope to him and discussed the physics of floating bodies with him at a banquet at the Florentine court. So Galileo hoped that under the new pope, he would be allowed to return to the study of astronomy, and he decided to proceed with his plans to write a book on the two rival theories of cosmology, the sun-centered and the earth-centered. This book was the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in 1632. The following year, Galileo was brought in for questioning by the Inquisition. He was tried and convicted of heresy, imprisoned, and eventually released under a revised sentence of house arrest. He then sold his home in Tuscany in order to move closer to the Convent of San Matteo and serve his time under house arrest there, but a few months later she fell ill and died of dysentery at the age of 34. I really enjoyed this, mostly for the narrative itself, but also because of the author's narration, which includes asides like this one on Galileo's experiments: Although this account reveals stunning experiments that promise to open a new window on philosophy, Salviati cannot be shaken from his recently acquired pedantic monotone, which threatens to establish an irreparable split, if not between science and religion, then between science and poetry. I listened to most of this on audio, but I also had a library copy of the ebook, both checked out from OverDrive.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    It seems ludicrous in today's age of technology and incremental achievements that one man could ever accomplish as much as Galileo, who discovered almost half of the planets we know of today and rubbished claims held scientifically for thousands of years. Galileo Galilei was born into a time and a place that could not have been more perfect for him. At the turn of the 17th century, much of Europe had already cast off the oppressive cloak of ignorance held fast by the Catholic Church for the previ It seems ludicrous in today's age of technology and incremental achievements that one man could ever accomplish as much as Galileo, who discovered almost half of the planets we know of today and rubbished claims held scientifically for thousands of years. Galileo Galilei was born into a time and a place that could not have been more perfect for him. At the turn of the 17th century, much of Europe had already cast off the oppressive cloak of ignorance held fast by the Catholic Church for the previous millennium. In Italy, Florence had given birth to the Renaissance and was spearheading the drive towards new knowledge. This was an age in which Galileo would be able to meet such luminaries as Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes and John Milton, to name but the best known internationally among them. During his more than seventy years he pushed the boundaries of astronomy, philosophy and physics in a way unseen since the days of Aristotle, adapting the telescope and discovering several planets, pushed ideas that would be the basis on which Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein would work. And into that life stepped the overbearing, insecure Pope Urban VIII, who would ban Galileo from teaching and printing any of his ideas, since his work was 'contrary to Scripture'. It is difficult for anyone with an enquiring mind, a sense of freedom or justice or even a passing interest in science not to become angry to the point of rage at the story of Galileo's life. So much more could have been achieved and discovered had he been allowed by the neurotic idiots at the Vatican to continue his work. That organisation - which, I might add, decried Italy's burgeoning railway network in the mid-19th century in the same terms - did not see fit to 'pardon' Galileo until the 1980s - the NINETEEN-EIGHTIES. What comes from a reading of this book is an enormous amount of respect for Galileo Galilei, fury at the wilfully ignorant buffoons who would have us living in the Stone Age that they may remain in power, and love for the depth of feeling he shared with his daughter. Galileo remained as good a Christian as any whilst the captains of that religion sought to rid the world of his findings. The letters he received from his daughter (his to her have not survived) show a huge love worthy of a story in its own right. In the end, Grand Duke Ferdinando of Florence, though banned from giving Galileo anything but the most basic of burials, called him "the greatest light of our times". “Today the news has come of the loss of Signor Galilei,” wrote Lucas Holste, Francesco Cardinal Barberini’s Vatican librarian, "which touches not just Florence but the whole world, and our whole century which from this divine man has received more splendor than from almost all the other ordinary philosophers. Now, envy ceasing, the sublimity of that intellect will begin to be known which will serve all posterity as guide in the search for truth.” And so it is that the forces of blindness, corruption and silence have entered the 21st century in disgrace while Galileo Galilei is held among the greatest of men ever to have lived; a calming and reassuring thought if ever there was one. This is a wonderfully written book which takes an interesting angle of approach and succeeds entirely. Sobel's narrative, thorough and full of explanation for the less scientifically knowledgeable, is easy to read and even poetic in places.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Most people vaguely know of Galileo, the 16th century Italian astronomer who overturned the centuries-old Ptolemaic belief that the sun revolves around earth and subsequently found himself in trouble with the Catholic Church. What Sobel does in this book is to put a specific human face on the man, to show how, despite his brilliance, he was a man of his time, a devout Catholic, and a man like most of us who had worries about money, the welfare of his children, his health. Galileo’s daughter, a c Most people vaguely know of Galileo, the 16th century Italian astronomer who overturned the centuries-old Ptolemaic belief that the sun revolves around earth and subsequently found himself in trouble with the Catholic Church. What Sobel does in this book is to put a specific human face on the man, to show how, despite his brilliance, he was a man of his time, a devout Catholic, and a man like most of us who had worries about money, the welfare of his children, his health. Galileo’s daughter, a cloistered Poor Clare nun, is a part of this picture as her letters to her father have survived and are quoted from generously to demonstrate the loving nature of her father. Why was the church so opposed to Galileo’s scientific discoveries, ones he made with the use of better telescopes which he helped design, as well as his mathematical calculations? I think it was a matter of two factors. First, church theologians thought that a system that had the earth revolving around the sun contradicted Biblical passsages such as those from Ecclesiastes which has the sun rising and setting or the passage showing the sun stopping for Joshua. For Galileo this was never a problem as he thought, along with Augustine, that the interpretation of the Bible should never be restricted to a literal one. Rather, many of its passages were to be seen as using literary and symbolic devices, designed to foster people’s devotion,. A worthy aim, and that was all. Secondly, the Catholic Church, then as today, did not like to admit error. It valued consistency, and in Galileo’s case, there were condemnations of Copernicus who a half century earlier had refuted, on observable and mathematical grounds, the notion of a earth-centered solar system. So, to admit Galileo’s observations as true would be to reverse the opposition to Copernicus. Interestingly, no one really disputed either man on experimental data – it was a question of rejecting them because they opposed ideas of Aristotle who was highly revered. This distinction is at the heart of the opposition to Galileo – he didn’t match up with the vested interests in Aristotelian theories. Galileo was widely respected, though, and in l616 he got the green light from Cardinal Bellarmine to go ahead with his research, but he could promote his ideas as only “theory” not fact or truth. Just one “theory” among others. His way of following this prescription was to write a dialogue between three “seekers of truth”, one a pompous Aristotelian philosopher, one who was Galileo’s alter ego, and the third an intelligent impartial observer. They discuss over a period of four days Galileo’s sun-centered conclusions, and of course the reader ends up siding with Galileo as he has the better arguments. There, the matter stood until 15 years later, the case was reopened. There was now a new pope, Urban VIII, who was under political pressure from the 30 Years War to be firm in guarding the Catholic faith, from any more deviations from the “truth”. Cardinal Bellarmine, dead, was no longer around to stand up for Galileo, and he faced a very conservative panel of Inquisition cardinals who felt his dialogue was just a sneaky way of promoting a heretical position. Galileo’s ideas were condemned as false and opposed to doctrinal truth. and his writings on the subject were to be confiscated and destroyed. He was given a relatively lenient punishment, provided he recanted and admitted his position was false one.. Galileo had no argument with the Church overall, just on this particular point. He signed documents admitting his “error” and was punished with a form of house arrest. He continued his research, although he was not allowed to publish anything. Should Galileo have acted differently? He was by now an old man, in poor health, and what was the point of subjecting himself to suffering and torture? His findings were already known, abroad in Protestant countries, if not in Italy. And he was supporting family members who would have been destitute without him. Given these considerations, his actions are understandable. The book fills in his life, then. The daughter’s letters, loving, but often seeking financial support for her convent, are interesting, but not really essential to the book. The author’s conclusion which comes down squarely on Galileo’s contribution to SCIENCE, not FAITH or LOVE, is that his importance lies in his emphasis on the practical and experimental value of science. Today, I think there is a parallel to be drawn between Galileo and the controversy over global warming. Vested interests, then as now, are opposed to changes that would mean a reversal of the accepted ways of thinking and doing things. And then, as now, there is a distrust of experimental and mathematical procedures that don’t line up with “common sense.” But that's a theory in itself, to be tested, just like any other.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ayse_

    Why would a very good hearted and wise girl not be given any chance to use her mind but only her labor and live a very poor and unfulfilling life. Thus is the life of Suor Maria Celeste. Only finding a little happiness may be in knowing the happiness and contentment of those she loved and served. I am sure many a girl/women of human history has done so, willingly or unwillingly..Still I find it shocking that even the light of a very enlightened father cannot reduce the darkness of ignorance and Why would a very good hearted and wise girl not be given any chance to use her mind but only her labor and live a very poor and unfulfilling life. Thus is the life of Suor Maria Celeste. Only finding a little happiness may be in knowing the happiness and contentment of those she loved and served. I am sure many a girl/women of human history has done so, willingly or unwillingly..Still I find it shocking that even the light of a very enlightened father cannot reduce the darkness of ignorance and disparity from his own house. To all the women who sacrificed their lives one way or another, believing this to be necessary for making others' lives happy or comfortable or livable; I hope it was worth it, for its such a high price to pay; and I hope life honors your sacrifices and gives you some acknowledgement even if its after 500 years and in a book. Galileo was the Prometheus of his time. An extraordinary mind, wit and perception. In the end he was punished for it. Very interesting book that recaptures the circumstances, the dynamics of that era. A book that makes one feel grateful for being born in our time. “The arduous existence of the Poor Clares was described baldly by a contemporary of Suor Maria Celeste’s and Suor Arcangela’s— Maria Domitilla Galluzzi, who entered the house of the Clarisses in Pavia in 1616, and later wrote her own interpretation of the Rule of Saint Clare. “Show her how we dress in vile clothing,” Maria Domitilla counseled any nun introducing a candidate for admission to the sisters’ way of life, “always go barefoot, get up in the middle of the night, sleep on hard boards, fast continually, and eat crass, poor, and lenten food, and spend the major part of the day reciting the Divine Office and in long mental prayers, and how all of our recreation, pleasure, and happiness is to serve, love, and give pleasure to the beloved Lord, attempting to imitate his holy virtues, to mortify and villify ourselves, to suffer contempt, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and other inconveniences for his love.” --- “Suor Maria Celeste’s word for the loving indulgence that characterized her father’s attentiveness—amorevolezza—appears more than twenty times in her 124 surviving letters, thanking him for some recent act of thoughtfulness or generosity toward herself, her sister, or someone else in the convent. Thus, all the while that Galileo was inventing modern physics, teaching mathematics to princes, discovering new phenomena among the planets, publishing science books for the general public, and defending his bold theories against establishment enemies, he was also buying thread for Suor Luisa, choosing organ music for Mother Achillea, shipping gifts of food, and supplying his homegrown citrus fruits, wine, and rosemary leaves for the kitchen and apothecary at San Matteo. ” “Meanwhile, Austrian Hapsburg troops fighting in Mantua inadvertently released a biological weapon along with their musket fire, by carrying the bubonic plague across the Alps into Italy in 1629. Urban, as part of his program to protect the populace from this threat, now traveled clear across Rome every Sunday to say mass at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where a treasured image of the Madonna had miraculously barred the plague from the city in the sixth century”“Suor Maria Celeste further nursed Galileo by plying him with every new plague preventative she could fabricate in her apothecary shop or procure by other means. ” Excerpt From: Dava Sobel. “Galileo's Daughter.” Apple Books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is an amazing book, and just the thing to cleanse the mental palate after inflicting Nancy Kress' An Alien Light on myself. Galileo's story is really at the crux of the transition from Aristotelian physics to what we now call Newtonian or classical physics. It was Galileo and his contemporaries who finally broke the stranglehold that Aristotle had on philosophy in the West and improved on him. Today we are generally told a very few things about Galileo: - He was essentially the first to use This is an amazing book, and just the thing to cleanse the mental palate after inflicting Nancy Kress' An Alien Light on myself. Galileo's story is really at the crux of the transition from Aristotelian physics to what we now call Newtonian or classical physics. It was Galileo and his contemporaries who finally broke the stranglehold that Aristotle had on philosophy in the West and improved on him. Today we are generally told a very few things about Galileo: - He was essentially the first to use a telescope on the night sky and observe new phenomena, such as the moons of Jupiter or the roughness of the moon or a dim impression of Saturn's rings. - He was condemned by the Catholic Church for espousing Copernicus' hypothesis that the Earth circles the Sun and that the daily motion of celestial objects is caused by the Earth's rotation, rather than the motion of Aristotle and Ptolemy's spheres. That's all I knew about him for many years. I had grasped more details in the last several years before reading this book, but it gives me an overflowing wealth of information about his life and a much better idea of the history and details of the controversy that led to his trial in Rome. Obviously I recommend anyone and everyone read this book for themselves and get these details. I actually saw this author speak, largely about this book, in Indianapolis in 2008 or 2009, so I snapped the book up right away when I saw it at a used bookstore in Honolulu (overcrowded baggage be damned). What I find most amazing is that this woman is Jewish, yet she sympathetically advances the thesis that Galileo was throughout his life a staunch Catholic who made himself enemies by his sharp wit and criticism of establishment (i.e. Aristotelian, which was nearly everyone at the time) academics, who were able to bring about his condemnation after many years, while he retained many friends, also intellectually committed Catholics, who were convinced of his sincerity and that his interpretations of his discoveries were perfectly reconcilable with the faith. I will end by noting that Galileo's Daughter is his eldest daughter, an intelligent and committed Poor Clare with whom Galileo corresponded often. Most of the correspondence Dava included in the book is about the daily human affairs of early seventeenth century Italy and gives a comforting picture of the humanity of both Galileo, Suor Maria, and the people around them.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kaara

    This book was clearly a labor of love, well researched and with sympathetic, very human depictions of Galileo, his daughter Sister Maria Celeste, and other folks. I learned a lot about Galileo's unbelievable discoveries, his equally important and forward-thinking contributions to the scientific community in terms of process and rigor, his family, and the politics, culture, and technology of the times he lived in. All very interesting. But the angle of this book, of Galileo's life being viewed th This book was clearly a labor of love, well researched and with sympathetic, very human depictions of Galileo, his daughter Sister Maria Celeste, and other folks. I learned a lot about Galileo's unbelievable discoveries, his equally important and forward-thinking contributions to the scientific community in terms of process and rigor, his family, and the politics, culture, and technology of the times he lived in. All very interesting. But the angle of this book, of Galileo's life being viewed through the eyes of his daughter, who shared his enormous intellect and capabilities and with whom he had a loving relationship, didn't really...work. Intelligent and accomplished as she seemed to be, she was a cloistered nun her entire (short) life, and, while her letters to Galileo survived, his letters to her did not; both these factors limited Maria Celeste as a main player in the narrative, despite the author's efforts. Nevertheless, a fascinating and inspiring story (and sobering--seems that every era has its folks who would rather hurt people than accept a change in common knowledge).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    This was a biography of Galileo. His daughter figures into it only because the author reprints letters that she sent her father from her convent (where he shipped her off to become a cloistered nun at age 13). This was OK -- I felt sooooo bad for Galileo having to fold before the inquisition and renounce his belief that the earth rotates around the sun---but it just wasn't nearly as good as the last book I read by this author, Longitude. Highly recommend the latter, but this one, while interesti This was a biography of Galileo. His daughter figures into it only because the author reprints letters that she sent her father from her convent (where he shipped her off to become a cloistered nun at age 13). This was OK -- I felt sooooo bad for Galileo having to fold before the inquisition and renounce his belief that the earth rotates around the sun---but it just wasn't nearly as good as the last book I read by this author, Longitude. Highly recommend the latter, but this one, while interesting, is a bit of a slog.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    4.5 stars. A fascinating walk through the story of Galileo and his discoveries, as well as an exploration of how much of a key figure his cloistered daughter was in his life. It's aimed at a popular audience, and is very readable, even enthralling. I was engrossed in the story, and the characters were brought to life well. Given the actions of some in the church, it's also written from a considerate and sympathetic point of view towards the Catholic church. This feels right, because of the faith 4.5 stars. A fascinating walk through the story of Galileo and his discoveries, as well as an exploration of how much of a key figure his cloistered daughter was in his life. It's aimed at a popular audience, and is very readable, even enthralling. I was engrossed in the story, and the characters were brought to life well. Given the actions of some in the church, it's also written from a considerate and sympathetic point of view towards the Catholic church. This feels right, because of the faith of Galileo himself. The book is also thought-provoking in this regard. There are broader messages to be taken and considered about science, faith, and the interplay between them. It also inspired me to go have a look at the sky for myself! Highly recommended for those interested in Galileo, astronomy, history of science, church history, or the interaction between science and faith.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pallavi Gambhire

    "Galileo's daughter" is the biography of the great philosopher and astronomer, with some loving letters by his daughter interspersed throughout the narrative. I have been reading a lot of biographies lately (something I had sworn, I would never have an interest in), and this one is unique because it primarily focuses on the relationship between Galileo and his daughter and is essentially a biography of both of them. Sobel presents a very vivid description of Galileo's life, his trials and tribu "Galileo's daughter" is the biography of the great philosopher and astronomer, with some loving letters by his daughter interspersed throughout the narrative. I have been reading a lot of biographies lately (something I had sworn, I would never have an interest in), and this one is unique because it primarily focuses on the relationship between Galileo and his daughter and is essentially a biography of both of them. Sobel presents a very vivid description of Galileo's life, his trials and tribulations, the consolations his daughter provided through his tough times and very often,a claustrophobic view of Maria Celeste's life as a cloistered nun. The letters by themselves aren't extremely interesting (except for Suor Maria Celeste's acknowledgement of Galileo as "Most illustrious Father" or "Most beloved and illustrious Father"! I mean how many of us refer to our dear dad this way anymore!). They present the day to day banality of the convent life, her hardships, her constant demands for material and monetary support from her father, her resignation at not being as intelligent as her father and lauding his merits, while constantly asking for advice (That is extremely modest of her, considering it was she who finished his final manuscripts for him). While the letters brought a relatively unknown person to life, and showed Galileo as a loving father, they did break up the narrative often enough to annoy me after a certain point. Galileo placed his two young daughters at the San Mateo convent, where they devoted themselves to the lives of cloistered nuns and lived their lives in abject poverty, despite the loving financial and emotional support of their father. The older daughter took upon the name 'Maria Celeste' as an ode to her father's devotion to celestial objects and it is through her letters that we get a glimpse of a daughter's relationship with her famous father, and their loving support to each other. Unfortunately for us,Galileo's replies to his daughter were never found. Therefore,what could have been a incredible dialogue between the two, is reduced to a disparate monologue of letters, in which a daughter keeps asking her father for financial help and in return provides him with love and unconditional support in the light of his run-ins with the Church. It made me think of( and be thankful for) the ease with which the world communicates now, and it was rather unnerving to think of the number of days (or even weeks) Galileo and Suor Maria Celeste must have waited to get their letters. It also made me lament the lost art of writing such long heartfelt letters what with modern communication lingo that includes abbreviations such as "XOXO", "<3", "Waddup" in the interest of time. People keep in touch often and therefore have the liberty to shorten their communication! (Frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength, anyone?) Anyway,I thought "Galileo's daughter" was an interesting, well researched book that portrayed Galileo as a man of science who defied the Church, while being deeply religious at the same time and who tried to reconcile the two all his life. At the end of it, you might notice that people have been struggling for the same things through the centuries. Unrighteous censorship, religious freedom and the right to free speech to name a few.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    It's okay as far as it goes but I kept feeling frustrated when Sobel passed up opportunity after opportunity to shed more light on some fascinating aspect of Galileo's life and times, I suspect through shallowness of research. It was like taking a guided tour of some great historical building, only for the guide to rush you past the most interesting looking rooms. The idea of using his daughter's letters is a very good one and serves to add context for the cares of everyday life and the ways of s It's okay as far as it goes but I kept feeling frustrated when Sobel passed up opportunity after opportunity to shed more light on some fascinating aspect of Galileo's life and times, I suspect through shallowness of research. It was like taking a guided tour of some great historical building, only for the guide to rush you past the most interesting looking rooms. The idea of using his daughter's letters is a very good one and serves to add context for the cares of everyday life and the ways of seeing the world which surrounded Galileo, but in many other respects we are left with too little information. For example, we are told he greatly improved the spyglass and developed it into the telescope. How? What did he do that other people didn't? What work had already been done on this technology? Was he working on his own or with the glassmakers of Murano? A few paragraphs of context may have been all that was needed but we are given nothing. In fact, a lot of the actual science concepts seem to be skimmed. If I didn't know she had made a career of writing about the history of science, I'd have said she didn't actually seem to understand the fundamental concepts around which Galileo made his great contributions. We are told he was both internationally famous and that he had enemies well before he got into the controversy over his Dialogue. Why? On what was his fame based? What were his detractors saying and why? Generally we are left with little context of the intellectual life of the time which is sorely needed to understand how Galileo both fit into and diverged from it. Near the end of the book, it is mentioned that the poet John Milton visited Galileo, a fact which another biographer would have seen as a golden opportunity to wax lyrical, perhaps bringing in the international context and the consequences of the church's censorship of his ideas. Sobel decided that the meeting of two of the most significant figures of their age is only worthy of a parenthesis and a footnote. Overall, it reads like the work of someone who has just done research towards an essay, and therefore skims the parts which she hasn't looked into enough to develop a real understanding of. I would rather read a biography by someone who has a deep knowledge of her subject and can really immerse me in the world she is describing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    Every year I like to read at least one nonfiction book that educates me about an era or people I'm otherwise ignorant of. Last year I read Nathaniel's Nutmeg, a book that has forever changed my perspective about paying $2 for a jar of nutmeg at the grocery store. This year I selected Galileo's Daughter. I admit, I didn't know much about the man other than that he was the father of modern sciences and was censored by the Catholic church, but I didn't know the details of that.[return][return]This Every year I like to read at least one nonfiction book that educates me about an era or people I'm otherwise ignorant of. Last year I read Nathaniel's Nutmeg, a book that has forever changed my perspective about paying $2 for a jar of nutmeg at the grocery store. This year I selected Galileo's Daughter. I admit, I didn't know much about the man other than that he was the father of modern sciences and was censored by the Catholic church, but I didn't know the details of that.[return][return]This book takes a fascinating approach to Galileo by studying him through his eldest daughter's eyes. He had three children--all illegitimate--with the two girls placed in a convent. The eldest, dubbed Suor Maria Celeste as a nun, had all of the intelligence and wit of her father. She managed many aspects of her convent, and while her father was imprisoned by the Inquisition, she also ran her father's household--even though she could not leave the convent grounds. This book delves heavily into Galileo's Dialogues, a volume that earned him the acclaim of his fellow scientists and the scorn of the Pope (his former friend), and resulted in his prolonged captivity during a time of virulent plague.[return][return]I'm very glad I read this, though at times it was challenging for me. I do not share Galileo's scientific mind, and I'm awed at the discoveries and observations he made with the tools at his disposal. I adored Maria Celeste's letters. Her voice is delightful and bright, always drawing heavily on her faith while supporting her father to the utmost. It's no wonder that Galileo was crushed by her death at age 34. Galileo's own long life of 77 is quite remarkable; up to the very end, despite blindness and incapacitating pain, he dictated new theories to his apprentice.[return][return]I highly recommend this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    make no mistake, this is a biography of galileo, not of his daughter. and yet, she is a very important part of his life, mainly spiritual support. i like to read scientists' lifes in this period in history when the church prosecuted anyone who contraved the holy scripture. although galileo was punished (not physically, more like house arrest and his works banned) he couldn't help keep writing and exploring ideas that weren't always accepted or even allowed. he was a prolific man and a very relig make no mistake, this is a biography of galileo, not of his daughter. and yet, she is a very important part of his life, mainly spiritual support. i like to read scientists' lifes in this period in history when the church prosecuted anyone who contraved the holy scripture. although galileo was punished (not physically, more like house arrest and his works banned) he couldn't help keep writing and exploring ideas that weren't always accepted or even allowed. he was a prolific man and a very religious one; even though he was discovering things beyond this planet and finding its logic, not once did he doubt his faith and his belief in God. his persecution was the result of a confusion about his work, the Dialogues, and how to understand it, even though he was stating that it was a hypothesis and not a fact. also, pope urban viii didn't help at the end when he got persuaded to punish anyone adopting another stance, for his catholic faith was starting to be doubted by outsiders. galileo's daughter's letters to him make an appearance and give a disctinct angle on his life. a great man and a great scientist.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Loni

    It is quite rare that I quit reading a book, but today this one falls in to that category. It has taken me 2 weeks to get 100 pages into it, and I still can't figure out why it was recommended. If someone has read it and has some great insight as to why I should pickup it up off the floor, where I tossed it, let me know! If any 'friends' want to give it a try let me know.. it is yours!!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Galileo’s Daughter was written by Dava Sobel in 1999. This book is first and foremost a historical narrative about Galileo. Galileo never married which was not uncommon amongst the educated class. Of his many children he was closest to his daughter Virginia, the daughter referenced in the title of the book, and his son Vivencio. Through her father’s influence Virginia became a nun at a convent near Florence. The author had access to a large number of letters that Virginia wrote to her father ove Galileo’s Daughter was written by Dava Sobel in 1999. This book is first and foremost a historical narrative about Galileo. Galileo never married which was not uncommon amongst the educated class. Of his many children he was closest to his daughter Virginia, the daughter referenced in the title of the book, and his son Vivencio. Through her father’s influence Virginia became a nun at a convent near Florence. The author had access to a large number of letters that Virginia wrote to her father over decades and included many in the book, thus the title. Sobel’s narrative approach definitely helps adds a human element to the story through Galileo’s correspondence with his daughter. Most of the scenes in the book are set in Pisa, Florence or Rome. All places integral to Renaissance history and extremely interesting in their own right. Also covered in the book are the periods including the Bubonic plague, the Thirty Years War and an epidemic of food shortages in Florence. Highly dramatic events. Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Florence in 1564. His father was a mathematician of local renown. Galileo when he came of age was unable to secure a spot to attend the university at Pisa so he took up a tutorship for the powerful Medici family. His brilliance quickly became known and he was then able to secure a professorship at Pisa in mathematics. It was also at this time that Galileo became close to Pope Paul V who supported his scientific research. Galileo contributed mightily to the canon of scientific discovery. In 1611 he expanded on a new compound eyeglass invention to become the first to use a telescope for astronomy. In short order he examined the moon in detail, explored sunspots and the Jovian giants and published his results. This disturbed many in the church who viewed the sun and moon as perfect heavenly bodies. Fortunately for Galileo, the Pope seemed more intrigued with the findings than dismayed. It was around this time that Galileo performed his famous experiment proving that gravity acted equally on light and heavy objects. His demonstration involved dropping a cannonball and a smaller musket ball from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He proved that they would drop at the same speed and hit the ground at the same time. This was seventy-five years prior to Newton’s publication of Principia by the way. Through Galileo’s astronomical research, including observations of comets and his gravity experiments Galileo confirmed for himself that the heliocentric theory introduced by Copernicus some sixty years earlier was indeed correct. Kepler also independently came to this conclusion at the same time as Galileo. Of course the Catholic Church did not believe in the heliocentric theory. Their dogma placed the earth at the center of the universe. But Galileo chipped away at the edges. Although he did not explain in the cogent mathematical equations that Newton would outline later, Galileo explained that because the perception of velocity was relative to the earth we can’t feel the “effects” of the heliocentric theory. He acknowledged that there was no test that he could devise to prove this. So this disconnect remained an impediment to belief in the theory amongst those who were not astronomers or mathematicians, especially in the shadow of the Catholic church’s position. Galileo’s troubles with the church really began after his publication of Dialogue in 1623 which also occurred when Urban VIII assumed Pontifex Maximus. Although the new Pope was not hostile to Galileo he was hostile to the heliocentric theory. It took a decade for Galileo’s enemies to bring charges. While Galileo was spared the ultimate sentence by Urban VIII he did serve six months and was banned from discussing his scientific findings. He lived on for another decade and although he did continue to discuss his theories he maintained a much lower profile. Galileo was buried in the Santa Croce church in Florence with his daughter Virginia and his close assistant Viviani. He lived a long life and until that last decade, he had managed to thread the needle between science and blasphemy. 4 stars. I was tempted to give this book the full 5 stars as it is an interesting book, reads as a narrative and there is an impressive level of research. However most of the letters printed in the book were of a similar nature and redundant. Virginia professes her love for Galileo and then spells out the more the mundane accounting details of day to day life. She is not central to the story beyond this context. I would have liked to see more science coverage in the book as Galileo was every bit as interesting and important to science as anyone in history including Newton or Einstein.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    2.5 Stars. This is definitely a biography of Galileo and not his daughter, although she is mentioned a bit (as ANY decent biographer would do when writing about a brilliant scientist who also had a genius child). So, because of the misleading title I was mostly disappointed, despite Galileo's contributions in physics and science.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emilia

    Great book, fascinating, well written and well read. ( I did the audio book) I thuroughly enjoyed this one.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    The letters Galileo's daughter wrote to him are like little snapshots into the life of early 17th century Italy, and also give us rare look at the person behind the legend as seen through the eyes of his adoring eldest daughter. Yes the pace is a bit slow, but it allows the reader to be slowly drawn in, to feel invested in the lives of these smart, good people. Most enjoyable.

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