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Galileo Hardcover – 14 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199583528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199583522
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 4.8 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 491,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patrick E. Mason on 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 By J. Suyderhoud on 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dr. S. A. Mitton on 21 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a work of scholarship at the highest level, written in a most engaging manner. The back matter runs to 150 pages, the Notes alone taking 60 pages.

First sentence of the Preface: "It will be useful and perhaps reassuring to state that this is not the biography of a mathematician"

First sentence Chapter One: "On the facade of a house near the central train station in Florence there is an immense inscription in stone setting out Galileo's feats" Galileo was born on the day and almost the hour that Michelangelo died.

A random sentence, from page 156: "On 30 January 1610 Galileo informed Vinta that he was in Venice printing his account of the marvels God had vouchsafed unto him, of which the greatest were 'four new planets .. that move around a very large star, like Venus and Mercury, and perhaps the other known planets, do around the sun' "

Final sentence: "Who can doubt that within another 400 years the church will recognize Galileo's divine gifts, atone for his sufferings, ignore his arrogance, and make him a saint?"

This book is a masterpiece, one of the greatest scientific biographies ever written
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