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

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

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By (author) Dava Sobel

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  • Publisher: FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • Format: Paperback | 448 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 32mm | 299g
  • Publication date: 7 September 2000
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1857027124
  • ISBN 13: 9781857027129
  • Sales rank: 39,407

Product description

From the international best-selling author of Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is the fascinating story of the relationship between the great Italian scientist Galileo and his daughter, Virginia. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the foremost scientist of his day, 'the father of modern physics - indeed of modern science altogether' in the words of Albert Einstein. Though he never left the Italy of his birth, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. His telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to defend the astounding proposition that the Earth actually moves around the Sun. For this belief he faced the Holy Office of the Inquisition and was subsequently tried for heresy and threatened with torture. Galileo is brought to life here as never before - a man boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to family and, especially, to his daughter. Since there could be no hope of marriage for his illegitimate daughter Galileo placed her, aged thirteen, in a convent near him in Florence. She proved to be his greatest source of strength through his most difficult years. Through letters, contemporary writings, their voices are brought to vivid life and woven into Dava Sobel's compelling narrative. Galileo's Daughter tells the story of the most dramatic collision in history between science and religion. Dava Sobel illuminates an entire era, when the flamboyant Medici Grand Dukes became Galileo's patrons, when the Bubonic plague destroyed a generation and prayer was the most effective medicine, when one man fought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. Galileo's Daughter is a rich and unforgettable story.

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Author information

Dava Sobel is the internationally renowned author of Longitude. She is also an award-winning former science reporter for the New York Times and writes frequently about science for several magazines, including The New Yorker, Audubon, Discover, Life and Omni.

Editorial reviews

Sobel, author of the bestselling Longitude (1995), has elegantly translated the letters Galileo's eldest child, Virginia, wrote to him and uses them as a leitmotif to illuminate their deep mutual love, religious faith, and dedication to science. Yes, Galileo had a daughter, in fact two daughters and a son, the illegitimate offspring of a liaison with a Venetian beauty. Both daughters, considered unmarriageable because of their illegitimacy, became nuns in a convent south of Florence, not far from where Galileo had homes. But Virginia, as Suor Maria Celeste, was deeply involved in her father's life work, even transcribing his writings, while managing convent affairs and serving as baker, nurse, seamstress, and apothecary. Thus, we learn that Galileo was often confined to bed with incapacitating illnesses and that he treasured the medicines as well as the sweets and cakes his daughter provided. He was also something of a bon vivant, enjoying the wines produced by his vineyards, writing ribald and humorous verse as well as literary criticism. Indeed, his celebrated Dialogues were conceived as dramas involving three persons, with one playing the role of simpleton as foil for the two. In the end, it was the Dialogues that argued for the Copernican view that the Earth moved around the Sun, which invoked the wrath of Pope Urban VIII, who had earlier been a loyal friend and supporter of Galileo. The subsequent trial in Rome ended with Galileo's recantation and his banishment first to Siena, and then to house arrest in Florence. Sobel provides a few correctives to tradition and fills out the cast of personae who were Galileo's chief defenders and enemies. But it's the deft apposition of the devoted and pious letters of Suor Maria Celeste that add not only verisimilitude, but depth to the character of the writer and her father - revealed as a man of great intellect as well as religious faith and lovingkindness. Alas, his letters to her are lost. (Kirkus Reviews)