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Galileo [Hardcover]

John Heilbron
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £21.52
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Book Description

14 Oct 2010
Four hundred years ago, in 1610, Galileo published the Siderius nuncius, or Starry Messenger, a 'hurried little masterpiece' in John Heilbron's words. Presenting to the world his remarkable observations using the recently invented telescope - of the craters of the moon, and the satellites of Jupiter, observations that forced changes to perceptions of the perfection of the heavens and the centrality of the Earth - the appearance of the little book is regarded as one of the greatest moments in the history of science. It was also a point of change in the life of Galileo himself, propelling him from professor to prophet. But this is not the biography of a mathematician. Certainly he spent the first half of his career as a professor of mathematics and has been called 'the divine mathematician'. Yet he was no more (or less) a mathematician than he was a musician, artist, writer, philosopher, or gadgeteer. This fresh lively new biography of the 'father of science', planned to coincide with the 400th anniversary of publication of the Starry Messenger, paints a rounded picture of Galileo, and places him firmly within the rich texture of late Renaissance Florence, Pisa, and Padua, amid debates on the merits of Ariosto and Tasso, and the geometry of Dante's Inferno - debates in which the young Galileo played an active role. Galileo's character and career followed complex paths, moving from the creative but cautious humanist professor to a 'knight errant, quixotic and fearless', with increasing enemies, and leading ultimately and inevitably to a clash with a pope who was a former friend.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199583528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199583522
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 4.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 419,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Heilbron has produced that rare marvel, a splendid new view of a familiar figure, a witty, absorbing, and convincing account of the man and his epoch, destined for the wide readership Galileo himself once had. (Eileen Reeves, ISIS)

Heilbron's polymathic expertise brings out the complex contours of Galileo's science in a relatively accessible form (Nick Wilding, London Review of Books)

The most thorough and reliable introduction to Galileo now available, and also the best written (Nick Wilding, London Review of Books)

Heilbron's book, to the best of my knowledge, explains more of Galileo's science than any other single book. (American Scientist)

By far the richest account yet produced in English. (Science Magazine)

Lively book. (Mail on Sunday)

Mr Heilbron's ... has much richer scientific detail and will no doubt become the standard, comprehensive biography. (International Herald Tribune)

Professor Heilbron provides a rounded portrait of Galileo. (London Review of Books)

Heilbron's emphasis on Galileo's polymathy is a more accessible and undoubtedly valuable aspect of the book. (Andrew Robinson, History Today)

As well as witticisms, Heilbron delights in scholarly details, and this book bears ample testimony to his assiduous research. (Patricia Fara, BBC History Magazine)

Witty...scholarly...innovative...Heilbron's Galileo is no ordinary eulogy. (Patricia Fara, BBC History, November 2010)

An awesome command of the vast Galileo literature... [it] will no doubt become the standard, comprehensive biography. (Owen Gingerich, New York Times Book Review)

A masterpiece...It far surpasses all previous biographies of Galileo. Impeccable scholarship. (Nick Jardine, professor of the History and Philosophy of Sciences, Cambridge University)

About the Author

John Heilbron is Professor of History and Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of California at Berkeley. One of the most distinguished scholars on the Scientific Revolution, he is the author of The Sun in the Church (a New York Times Notable Book) and The Oxford Companion to the History ofModern Science.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eppur si muove 13 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover
As is the case with many prominent historical figures, the popular stories of Galileo's life are mainly mythologised versions of the real events. Thankfully, in the case of Galileo and those he associated and interacted with, the historical records in existence appear to be plentiful so serious historians such as Heilbron are able to research the main subject in detail while drawing on many sources to put it all in context. The result in this case is excellent. Helibron is a "distiguished historian of science" and clearly an academic... but the structure of the book and the writing style is very accessible - and with a good dose of wit throughout.
A couple of things about this book which, for me, enhances the experience compared with many other scientific histories/biographies:- Firstly, there are (brief) discussions of the physical questions that Galileo investigated, with the geometrical explanations in the manner that Galileo presented himself. Secondly, there is a glossary of the people featured in the text (with the the exception of "such household names as Einstein and God"). This is very useful for keeping up with the names of the many different characters (and whether they were they pro- or anti-Galileo, Florentine, Roman, Venetian, Jesuit etc.)
This is one of several very good books about Galileo I have read but, so far, I would put this one top of the list.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Galileo, an eventful life 24 Jan 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In 1610 Galileo published his little masterpiece "Sidereus nuncius". The 400th anniversary of this book has resulted in a large amount of books on Galileo, of which 2 biographies were selected as the best and reviewed in a Dutch newspaper by Dirk van Delft, Director of Museum Boerhaave at Leiden. These books are the one by Wootton, Alpha oriented and this book by Heilbron, Beta oriented and considered slightly better. Therefore I selected this book and was not at all disappointed with the choice. Heilbron describes Galileo as a "Critic", not as mathematician or philosopher and places him rightly within the context of that period. Much space is devoted to his struggle with the Roman Church and the Jesuits on Copernicanism, but his live and findings are well told and explained in an understandable manner. The last chapter tells the story of the heretical status of Copernicanism and Galileo over the last 400 years and ends with the prediction that Galileo will be made saint by the Roman Church within the next 400 years. The book is well written and intelligible for a large audience, therefore a must for all those interested in the History of Science or in the Scientific Revolution, as Galileo is a central figure in the history of Modern Science. In this respect it is of interest to compare the views of Floris Cohen (author of How Modern Science came into the World, see part II on Galileo) and those of Heilbron. Cohen describes Galileo foremost as a "Realist", while Heibron sees him as a "Critic". Personally I feel more for the unique combination of both aspects which brought forward the birth of Modern Science in Europe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhaustive. 5 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If your interest in Galileo is in his science rather than his character and life then this is the book for you. Exhaustive explanations of the scientific work that he achieved. I would've preferred more detail on his life and character as that would've served my current needs better.

One for the scholar rather than the dilettante.
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