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Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (original 1999; edition 2009)

by Dava Sobel

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4,573921,049 (3.68)197
Member:qatsi
Title:Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
Authors:Dava Sobel
Info:Fourth Estate (2009), Edition: (Reissue), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Read
Rating:*****
Tags:history, science, biography

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Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel (1999)

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historical memoir of science, love, + faith
16th - 17th Century — G's daughter in a convent writes him long letters, love support. Science + Faith — Hand in Hand
Faith in God — undeniable — search for truth + learning don't diminish Religion.

Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of such qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was 13 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 through his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then.
  christinejoseph | Jul 21, 2016 |
An excellent biography of Galileo. The history is well researched, the letters from Galileo's daughter as much into the society that Galileo lived in.

The story is well written, and the history almost comes alive. This book depicts Galileo as a full person, rather than just a great scientist. The politics of Aristocracy and Church was interesting to read. As leaders changed, so did policy of what is prohibited. One censorship board approved the publishing of "Dialogue", but than a later pope banned it, citing heresy.

An excellent biography of a very interesting man. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Jun 26, 2016 |
This is really an amazing book. The insight that Ms. Sobel has opened into the times of 16th and 17th century Italy were incredibly informative, as Italy has never been my area of expertise. The conflicts and troubles between the scientists and the Church are especially relevant today with the desire of some to not teach Evolution in the classrooms. The fight that he and other scientists (and there were other scientists) undertook to show the fallacy of Aristotle's earth-centered universe are paralleled with the current folks who think that Creationism is as valid a scientific theory as Evolution. I understand Galileo's frustration with trying to communicate his message in the face of censorship and the threat of the tortures of the Inquisition. I am touched by his love for his daughter and hers for him - for those of us lucky enough to have had a loving relationship with our fathers, this book puts into words what I could only sense. Ms. Sobel's descriptions of convent life were especially helpful in trying to understand how a woman could survive and even thrive in cloistered life. It seems that for many women it was a choice they made without, well, maybe not without regrets, but it certainly was not a prison as I always thought it was. For some women, yes, it would have been horrible (like Suor's sister, though we do not know her thoughts) or their cell mate who was emotionally or mentally disturbed. But it was a place for women to live apart from the world and gain something thereby. Ms. Sobel's descriptions of the Black Plague (where I am right now) are very well documented and explain in more detail than I've seen anywhere else what the personal and social impact of this dread disease was. I am enjoying this book and am glad I bought it. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
This is really an amazing book. The insight that Ms. Sobel has opened into the times of 16th and 17th century Italy were incredibly informative, as Italy has never been my area of expertise. The conflicts and troubles between the scientists and the Church are especially relevant today with the desire of some to not teach Evolution in the classrooms. The fight that he and other scientists (and there were other scientists) undertook to show the fallacy of Aristotle's earth-centered universe are paralleled with the current folks who think that Creationism is as valid a scientific theory as Evolution. I understand Galileo's frustration with trying to communicate his message in the face of censorship and the threat of the tortures of the Inquisition. I am touched by his love for his daughter and hers for him - for those of us lucky enough to have had a loving relationship with our fathers, this book puts into words what I could only sense. Ms. Sobel's descriptions of convent life were especially helpful in trying to understand how a woman could survive and even thrive in cloistered life. It seems that for many women it was a choice they made without, well, maybe not without regrets, but it certainly was not a prison as I always thought it was. For some women, yes, it would have been horrible (like Suor's sister, though we do not know her thoughts) or their cell mate who was emotionally or mentally disturbed. But it was a place for women to live apart from the world and gain something thereby. Ms. Sobel's descriptions of the Black Plague (where I am right now) are very well documented and explain in more detail than I've seen anywhere else what the personal and social impact of this dread disease was. I am enjoying this book and am glad I bought it. ( )
  cctest01 | Jun 15, 2016 |
At its surface a history lesson, Galileo's Daughter is also a very personal peek into the dynamics of a relationship between a now-infamous scientist and his illegitimate but clearly cherished daughter. Although Galileo's side of the conversation is lost to history, the letters to him from his daughter, Florentine nun Suor Maria Celeste, survive and abound with concerns for his health, political cautions, local news, and humble appeals for goods or funds benefiting the convent. The exceedingly submissive tone of Maria Celeste's letters can feel a bit unsettling to 21st-century sensibilities, though it's important to remember it was not only a different time, but the lifestyle and comportment of a 17th-century nun is also virtually foreign to today's reader. It's incredible to me that the correspondence between Galileo and Maria Celeste survives to the present when one considers the extent to which Galileo's contributions to science weren't appreciated fully during his own time. ( )
  ryner | May 29, 2016 |
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To the fathers
Galileo Galilei
&
Samuel Hillel Sobel, M.D.,
in loving memory.
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Most Illustrious Lord Father: We are terribly saddened by the death of your cherished sister, our dear aunt; but our sorrow at losing her is as nothing compared to our concern for your sake, because your suffering will be all the greater, Sire, as truly you have no one else left in your world, now that she, who could not have been more precious to you, has departed, and therefore we can only imagine how you sustain the severity of such a sudden and completely unexpected blow.
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Book description
Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of Galileo's daughter, a cloistered nun, acclaimed writer 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."

The son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140280553, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:45 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Chronicles the life of Galileo Galilei, focusing on his relationship with his eldest child Virginia, and explaining how she helped influence her father's work.

(summary from another edition)

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