It's not the most alluring of titles, I admit, and even though most people have heard of Galileo and many know enough of his achievements to admire him, I suspect few people would consider reading a book by him. However, I urge you very strongly to buy this book and at least give it a try. It's a wonderful work, full of fascinating and brilliant insights and Stillman Drake's superlative translation makes it extremely readable. It gives a fascinating insight into what Galileo *really* did to annoy the Inquisition and shows his often brilliantly witty and occasionally dangerously sarcastic style. Even to dip into, this book is a monumental pleasure.
Try this, the first few lines of the Introduction - To The Discerning Reader:
"Several years ago there was published in Rome a salutary edict which, in order to obviate the dangerous tendencies of our present age, imposed a seasonable silence upon the Pythagorean opinion that the Earth moves. There were those who impudently asserted that this decree had its origin not in judicious inquiry, but in passion none too well informed. Complaints were to be heard that advisers who were totally unskilled in astronomical observations ought not to clip the wings of reflective intellects by means of rash prohibitions. Upon hearing such carping insolence, my zeal could not be contained..."
I first read that while studying History of Science over thirty years ago, laughed out loud, and read the rest of the book with immense pleasure. It is written in the form of dialogues presided over by Sagredo ("wise man") and conducted between Salviati (really Galileo himself) and the person representing the Church's orthodoxy, whom Galileo christened Simplicio. Tactful, he wasn't, but he was a brilliant physicist and a brilliant author, filling the book with witty and amazingly ingenious arguments resulting in poor Simplicio being confounded at every turn.
I cannot say strongly enough what a pleasure this book is. It really isn't just a tome which will sit on your shelf looking impressive, or which you ought to plough through because it will Do You Good. It's wonderfully enjoyable and hugely rewarding, and I recommend it very highly indeed.
on 21 February 2014
It's amazing that a modern English translation of this classic wasn't attempted until 1952, so it's not generally available as an e-book (except for excerpts). But the full version is well worth reading. Given that his main experience of tides was in Venice (whose tides are mainly diurnal), and that gravitation wasn't properly understood at the time, his theory of the tides wasn't as rubbishy as most people have assumed since the 18th C. But it's the delightful way he knocks Aristotle off his perch that is the best part, starting with his tongue in cheek preface.
on 22 April 2012
interesting for sure, but after reading J L Heilbron's introduction...and drawing lines and notes trying to connect the points of his summary, i am stuck in the introduction! page xiv states "the committee found further that the doctrine that the sun moves and the earth rests was philosophically 'absurd.' They had in mind Aristotle's natural philosophy...."
but then on page xv, the same writer..."the Aristotelian system, in which all the 'planets,' including the sun and the moon, orbit the earth,"
this, along with what i understand to be the entire line of thought...that the church was not wanting to allow the Copernican model to prevail, leaves me completely confused....was this a 'mis-speak' in print in the introduction?
regardless, any book that will make us study again, is a great book!
also, is there a way to communicate with other reviewers, especially with the other reviewer of this book?