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Galileo Hardcover – 14 Oct 2010
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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 of Modern Science.
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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.
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
One for the scholar rather than the dilettante.
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