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

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

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Product Description

Galileo Galilei's telescopes allowed him to discover a new reality in the heavens. But for publicly declaring his astounding argument--that the earth revolves around the sun--he was accused of heresy and put under house arrest by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Living a far different life, Galileo's daughter Virginia, a cloistered nun, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength through the difficult years of his trial and persecution.

Drawing upon the remarkable surviving letters that Virginia wrote to her father, Dava Sobel has written a fascinating history of Medici--era Italy, a mesmerizing account of Galileo's scientific discoveries and his trial by Church authorities, and a touching portrayal of a father--daughter relationship. Galileo's Daughter is a profoundly moving portrait of the man who forever changed the way we see the universe.

• Winner of the Christopher Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award

• Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, and the American Library Association


Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #780146 in Books
  • Published on: 2000-11-01
  • Released on: 2000-11-01
  • Fabric type: paperback
  • Ingredients: Example Ingredients
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 8.46" h x .91" w x 5.60" l, .79 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 432 pages

Editorial Reviews

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

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

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

From Library Journal
Like Sobel's best-selling Longtitude, this is a compelling and gracefully written science history, retelling the familiar story of Galileo's battle with the Roman Catholic Church through the letters of his daughter, a cloistered nun. What results is a new view of the scientist. (LJ 10/1/99)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
2I wanted to like this book but couldn't make it through to the ...
By pjbmbm
I wanted to like this book but couldn't make it through to the end. I was hoping to learn more about Maria Celeste and less about Galileo and his quest to support Copernicus' theory of the Universe. That was interesting to a point but unless the reader was a student of physics or astronomy it was quite dry in places. The letters were works of art and written with such respect for her father but they were few and far between. I did feel, however, that it gave a clear picture of what it was like to be a female in the 1500's, very bleak indeed.

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful.
5Lucid, Moving Biography of The Father of Modern Science
By E. Rothstein
Dava Sobel's extraordinarily readable biography of Galileo is as much a portrait of the mind of a genius as it is a tapestry of Renaissance Italy. What infuses this masterful book with life, however, are the quirky, intelligent letters written to him by his daughter. Cloistered in a convent from the time she was a young girl, Suor Maria Celeste's loving correspondence to her father reveals the human side of Galileo. But the scope of Sobel's book encompasses more than the sum of its parts - in the final analysis, we are treated to the inner workings of a surprisingly "modern" approach to science (not least of which was the concept of a sun centered planetary system) in the face of malevolent censorship by the Catholic church. When Galileo is condemned of heresy, Sobel's book illuminates the political machinations behind the church's case, so that we understand the motivations (some of them nasty and personal) that fueled the fire. More importantly, we feel for the all too frail Galileo, under house arrest in the twilight of his life, and cheer when the centuries finally celebrate the genius that he was. I won't spoil the ending for you, but it is a genuinely moving surprise. Brava Dava Sobel!

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
3A look into the pasr.
By Lynn B. Ritchy
This is not a page turner, but I gave me a real sense of the culture, day to day struggles, and the deep divide between people of science and the suppressing control of the Catholic Church. How much more would Galileo accomplished without the forces that he had to deal with? It was heartwarming to read about the relationship between Galileo and his oldest daughter,and quite sad to understand how few choices she had in life.

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