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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a biography of Galileo or his Daughter.
This is more than just a biography of Galileo as a scientist, it is a personal account of his ability as a father, politician and a social commentary on life in Italy in the 16th/17th century. The scope is centred around Galileo’s correspondence with his eldest daughter and is superbly researched from the surviving letters and papal records of his trial. This is a...
Published on 11 Feb 2003 by Martin Ohara

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a drama
So far it's just a history of Galileo and is relationship with his nun daughter, no sign of faith - just catholic doctrine - or love - except family love.
Published 9 months ago by chris lewis


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4.0 out of 5 stars She sounds like a lovely person, 28 May 2011
By 
DB "davidbirkett" (Co. Kildare, Ireland (but born & raised Liverpool, UK)) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (Paperback)
Good natured, hard-working, generous, intelligent and loving - she should never have been locked away in a convent. As the book explains it wasn't uncommon at the time, and as a pious girl she didn't seem to mind, but the world would have been a better place with her active in it. (Paradoxically, her younger sister, who hated the idea of convent life ends up sounding like someone who needed to be banged away.)

As other reviwers have pointed out this is really two interwoven books in one - a translation of Suor Maria Celeste's letters and a biography of Galileo particularly focussing on the Copernican controversy. And I think Dava Sobel misses a trick in the biographical part. I would have liked to see a coda explaining how the church came to see and evetually admit its mistake. But this aside, a fine book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sobel so good., 17 Jan 2011
This review is from: Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (Paperback)
A splendid book combining imagination with solid background that fits convincingly into its historical background. It shows Galileo as a true genius. The church is stuck in its past and unable to follow his discoveries. But the book does not make a meal of castigating the fuddy-duddy clerics. The picture of the Poor Clares is intriguing, and authentic. By the way, the church has finally caught up, and the late Pope did apologise to Galileo! He no doubt is chortling, enjoying the reward earned by his restraint. Eppur, si muove!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not What I Expected, But Worth Reading, 10 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (Paperback)
The title of this book is somewhat misleading because it really is the story of Galileo rather than his daughter. Sadly, none of Galileo's letters to his daughter in the convent have survived, so the correspondence is somewhat one-sided (Marie Celeste's letters only are featured and not that many of those).
Having said all that, I enjoyed the book, even though it was not quite what I had expected. Dava Sobel makes what could be a rather dry subject, interesting and easy to digest. The background to the period was intriguing too - all those power-mad Popes, the 30 years war and the awful Black Death.
I don't usually read non-fiction and this was certainly not an easy read (I had to concentrate!)but it was worth the effort. I felt I had really learned something by reading it! Hurrah, science can be fun! I'll probably read 'Longitude' now!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting approach about Galileo, 28 Oct 2000
Expected the book to be based on letters form Galileo's daughter. The letters used were a small proportion of those thought to have been written, and Galileo's replies are even fewer. This factor along with the lack of referencing within the text makes the book more a story than a partial biography. It also leaves one wondering how authentic the historical data is, and what feedom the author has taken in developing the story. The story concerns Galileos later life, at an age when everyone else is today thinking of retiring. Most of the text is based on work other than by his daughter but the insight gained from the letters gives a feel for Galileo's circumstances: his health, wealth and personal friendships. It also highlights the effort individuals had to undertake to get work recognised, when the society of the day was controlled 'absolute' by The Church. The book is a worthwhile read but not one for the bookshelf.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through a lens, darkly..., 22 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Dava Sobel's fascinating book, 'Galileo's Daughter', is an historical text, but done in a wonderfully innovative manner. 'Galileo's daughter, born of his long illicit liaison with the beautiful Marina Gamba of Venice, entered the world in the summer heat of a new century, on August 13, 1600--the same year the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome for insisting, among his many heresies and blasphemies, that the Earth traveled around the sun, instead of remaining motionless at the centre of the universe. In a world that did not yet know its place, Galileo would engage this same cosmic conflict with the Church, treading a dangerous path between the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic and the heavens he revealed through his telescope.'
This daughter, christened Virginia, but taking the name Maria Celeste at the convent to which she was remanded, was an intellectual, well versed in the matters which made her father controversial, and, luckily for historians, a frequent correspondent with many around Galileo.
This book chronicles, with reliance upon Sister Maria Celeste's correspondence as well as a prodigious amount of supporting material, Galileo's struggle to be faithful and obedient both to the call of the Church and the call of scientific truth. In this we see not a militant revolutionary or a man bent on defiance and rebellion, as Galileo is so oft cast, but as a solitary man, an often lonely man, engaged in strenuous effort to be prayerful and concerned for all.
Galileo held many positions of teaching and research in his life. His output of written work was extensive, much of which no longer exists. His daughter likewise produced much, of which only her letters remain. Galileo produced works on mathematics (often with practical, i.e., military, emphasis), astronomy, and philosophy (the dividing line between these fields being rather hard to maintain during the Renaissance). Galileo shared the stage roughly with Copernicus, Brahe, and Kepler; Isaac Newton was born the year of Galileo's death.
Alas, part of Galileo's problem was a political miscalculation. While Pope Urban VIII was a man personally known to him (Galileo had demonstrated the telescope to him some time before his ascension to the lofty heights of Roman hierarchy), and known to be an intellectually interested and astute man, he nonetheless had political and dogmatic concerns (and, perhaps as important, other powerful people surrounding him with such concerns) that he could not ignore.
'When Galileo's book arrived in Rome in the summer of 1632, Urban could take no time to read it. Anonymous advisers judged it for him, however, as an egregious insult. Galileo's enemies in Rome, whose number was legion, saw the Dialogue as a scandalous glorification of Copernicus. And the pope, already loudly accused of flagging Catholic zeal on the battlefronts of Europe, could not allow a new affront to go unpunished.'
Not long after his censure from the papal commission, Galileo lost his eyesight, and, despite being published outside Italy, still chose to remain close to family and Church in Italy. Galileo's work was seen not only as a blight on his intellectual pursuit, but as a personal flaw, and the commission passed judgement 'on his book and his person'. Galileo was sentenced to prison (actually, he could have been burned at the stake, the preferred method for dealing with heretical challengers of the Church's worldview), but this was softened by friends who saw to it his terms of imprisonment were spent in bishopric and ambassadorial accommodations.
'The Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican' was listed on the next Index of Prohibited books, in 1664, where it would remain listed for almost 200 years. Of course, the Vatican made headlines throughout the 1990s by re-opening the case of Galileo and finding 'faults', in fact, that 'a tragic mutual incomprehension has been interpreted as the reflection of a fundamental opposition between science and faith'.
Too little too late? Perhaps. This book is a wonderful recast of the standard history on Galileo, seen primarily through the admittedly biased view of his beloved and loving daughter.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A hard read but worthwhile, 8 Mar 2002
By 
Dr. H. E. Ross (Stirling, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I bought this lengthy book because it had rave reviews in the press, and because I had thoroughly enjoyed Sobel's previous book, 'Longitude'. A quote on the front cover says 'Completely unputdownable'. On the contrary, I found it slow going, and left it lying for long periods. A friend of mine gave up half way through. I did finish it, and enjoyed it in a leisurely way. But it has none of the excitement of Longitude. There is a lot of fascinating detail about life in Italy in the 17th century, when bubonic plague was a frequent menace. Convents were a place of piety and poverty, but were also a dumping ground and safe haven for unmarried girls. The book also contains much on Galileo and his discoveries, and on other scientists of that period. The only excitement concerns Galileo's trial by the Inquisition for promulgating the heretical Copernican or sun-centered model of the sun and planets, instead of the time-honoured Ptolemaic or earth-centred model preferred by the Church. But this story, too, drags on with interminable delays: there is subterfuge and evasions on the part of Galileo, and much vindictiveness and intolerance on the part of the authorities. It is a sad story, only lightened by the fact that Galileo was lauded in his lifetime in other countries, and that (about 200 years later) his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems was removed from the Index of Prohibited Books. We may laud ourselves on our modern western tolerant society, with the supposed freedom to write books on any branches of science - but 'Galileo's Daughter' should serve to remind us that the imposition of Political Correctness is ever present..
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 11 April 2000
I struggled a little with this book, but I absolutely know that this was my fault and not Sobel's.
I am not sure why I struggled for this book is enthralling and very well researched. It is captivating from beginning to end and gives an incredible insight to the life and times of the majestic and influential Renaissance period.
As in "Longitude" Sobel is able to make complicated issues understandable and bring alive an amazing story. Even though I struggled to finish the book I enjoyed it very much and would readily recommend it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A drama of science versus the Church, 9 Jan 2000
Believing philosophy to be the highest calling, Galileo Galilei aspired to be a philosopher rather than a mathematician. In fact he is now reckoned to be one of the main founders of the modern scientific method. Whereas most great thinkers of his time concerned themselves with the "why" of natural phenomena, he was much more interested in the "how". He did not feel it necessary to understand why a falling object should accelerate towards the ground, but considered it more important to understand and describe how it fell. Accordingly he devised practical experiments to measure and record the motion of terrestrial objects and heavenly bodies. He could not have achieved the latter without inventing the modern telescope, grinding and polishing the lenses with his own hands. One of his last achievements in the final few months of his life, when he was already blind, was to invent the pendulum clock, which was constructed by his son under his instruction.
Born at Pisa into a wealthy Florentine family towards the end of the Renaissance, just two days before the death of Michelangelo Buonaroti, Galileo's life has been seen to have done for science what Michelangelo's did for art, liberating science to a higher realm of achievement. This he accomplished at great personal cost. His great work, The Dialogue, comparing Ptolemy's Earth-centred view of the universe with Copernicus' Sun-centred view, put him into direct conflict with the Catholic powers of Rome.
In all his work, trial and house arrest Galileo was greatly supported, encouraged and sustained by his dearly loved elder daughter, Suor Maria Celeste. Her deeply touching letters to him from the convent in Arcetri just to the south of the city walls of Florence, have survived to this day, and are aptly used as the main thread of a highly personal biography of her beloved father. From the age of thirteen, hers was a life of devotion and self-sacrifice in the convent, where she predeceased her father at the age of only 33. Galileo lived on in house arrest at his "hovel", Il Gioiello, just a short walk from the convent, to the age of 75. Just how deep was their love for each other is revealed in a twist at the end of the book. Dava Sobel has brought the great man to life in this skilful and engaging work. You cannot fail to be gripped by the drama and read it to the end.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing, 9 Nov 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love (Paperback)
Having read Longitude by the same author, I find this book a little disappointing. Indeed, it is more a long-drawn out tale of Galileo rather than of his daughter. Although the tale of Galileo is interesting and very well researched, his daughter's letters do not add much to the story and tend to become boring and repetitive.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart enthrawling book that wont leave you ever., 1 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This book is one of the best non-fition books that I have ever read. I loved the poetry of Dava Sobels writing and the obvious love and time that she must have put in to it. Thank you Ms Sobel for making history come alive and honoring Galileo by telling his story the way it was. A life that was incomplete without his daughter's love.
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Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love by Dava Sobel (Paperback - 6 Nov 2009)
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