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Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (original 1999; edition 2011)

by Dava Sobel

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4,667931,015 (3.68)205
Member:AquariusNat
Title:Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
Authors:Dava Sobel
Info:Walker & Company (2011), Edition: Book Club Edition., Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Biography, Science

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

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The world was a much different place a scant handful of centuries ago. Well, maybe not the physical world. It's the same shape, and all the continents and oceans and islands are pretty much where they were back then, but people and how they see the world have changed significantly. Sobel's Galileo's Daughter demonstrates this using letters to the great astronomer from his loving daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun. Since Galileo and her mother never wed, she was judged unmarriageable, so her father, in a sincere act of paternal care, arranged for her and her younger sister to be sent to a convent when Celeste (then Virginia) was 13. Neither daughter ever ventured outside its walls again. In our culture, which views individual freedom and personal choice as inherent rights, this might seem harsh treatment, but Maria Celeste doesn't consider herself imprisoned or unfortunate in any way. Her father, conversely, when he is sentenced to what amounts to house arrest by the Inquisition for holding the belief that the Earth moves around the Sun, does feel unjustly put upon, even though he is no more confined at the end of his life than his daughters have been most of theirs. How they see their situations is determined by how they see the world, which is quite different from how most people in Western society now see it. Galileo is one of the reasons why.

Sadly, only half of the long correspondence between father and daughter has been preserved. Galileo saved his daughter's letters. Celeste saved his to her as well, but they were apparently destroyed by an overzealous of fearful mother abbess after Celeste's untimely death (age 34) from dysentery. But from Celeste's letters and other accounts of the time, we can learn a lot about the life and times of Galileo. I think most of us today would see his world as harsh, oppressive, a place where everything you do, even your thoughts, are subject to judgement and punishment by established authorities. I am often struck by how subservient, how obsequious, the tone of letters are from this time. Today, sucking up to the boss is viewed as demeaning. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was apparently not only expected but necessary. It is only by viewing Galileo's accomplishments in this context that we can fully appreciate his bravery and his contribution to shaping our world today. It's a better place because of him.
( )
  DLMorrese | Oct 14, 2016 |
This was a very interesting book on Galileo and his relationship with his daughter Virginia, later changed to Suor Maria Celeste when she entered the convent at the age of 13 with her sister. Galileo and his daughter were very close and her letters to him had been saved and make up part of this book. They remained loyal to each other throughout his trials with the church.
The book did discuss his work and the problems that caused with the church. The only problem I had with the book was that reading about his work took a lot of concentration but I did enjoy his daughter's letters and the non-science subjects broached. His letters to her were never found or had been destroyed.
It is a fascinating look back at that time period and Suor Maria Celeste shed a light on what it was like living in a convent in that time period. Had she been born in modern ages, I could see her working with her father in his area since she comes across as very intuitive and smart. ( )
  JulieLill | Sep 15, 2016 |
This is a wonderful story explaining what really happened to Galileo. Many believe that the Catholic Church condemned him unjustly. The author convincing argues that Pope Urban has been influenced by other jealous or afraid of his theories. The Pope's friendship with Galileo began "to take second place to his feelings of persecution and fear for his own life". Galileo's enemies presented to the pope by court insiders, painted a dark picture. Pope Urban ended up not ruling in Galileo's favor. However, there is hope. Galileo still had friends and two daughters (and their entire religous community) helping and praying for him.
  SLamkin | Sep 13, 2016 |
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.
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  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 |
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Dedication
To the fathers
Galileo Galilei
&
Samuel Hillel Sobel, M.D.,
in loving memory.
First words
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)

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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.

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