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on 20 April 2016
Very interesting insight into Galileo's life. Quite absorbing but a difficult read as very fact based.
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excellent
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on 11 February 2003
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 superbly crafted, beautifully executed book that lives up to the sub-title “a drama of science, faith and love”. This deserves as much praise as the authors more famous book “Longitude”, it really is as good.
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on 20 September 2015
Dave and I were both impressed with our first Dava Sobel read, Longitude, and Dave chose Galileo's Daughter for his Kindle on the strength of the former. As it turned out, he disliked Galileo's Daughter so much that he didn't finish it whereas I found the book interesting and enjoyed learning more not only about the life of the great scientist, but also of the (by modern standards) terrible restrictive life forced on to both his daughters.

Suor Maria Celeste, the religious name adopted by Galileo's eldest daughter at the age of thirteen when she and her eleven year old sister were shut away in the San Matteo convent, exchanged letters almost continuously with her father throughout her short life. Her letters have survived and Sobel includes several within her book in order to illustrate points in what is essentially a biography of Galileo. Through her writing and evidence left by Galileo himself in surviving letters to third parties, it appears that Suor Maria Celeste was educated and highly intelligent yet condemned to a poverty-stricken secluded existence while her younger brother was repeatedly given opportunities that he squandered. This double-standard was common practice in Italy at the time, but I couldn't help but wonder at the waste!

Sobel's writing is informative while still being entertaining and she manages to always avoid becoming dry in tone. The minutiae of daily life recounted in Suor Maria Celeste's letters is incredible to read and I was amazed at her frequent need to beg alms from her rich father and patrons in order to stave off near starvation for herself and the sisters in her convent. Also incredible was the paranoia of the Vatican and Popes in Rome regarding their fanatical condemnation of any thinking that did not agree with their narrow interpretation of Scripture. I saw modern reflections of this attitude in Under The Udala Trees. Galileo's Daughter is a thought-provoking book which certainly made me glad to be alive now rather than then, even though that was just four hundred years ago.
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I found this took a lot more effort than the excellent 'Longitude' to work through. Don't get me wrong - it's great. For me, the amount of Italian names to juggle was tricky.

But the format, the letters, the storytelling, the history of it was wonderful. So hard to picture - the Church denying and punishing Galileo and his books for dating to oppose Christian doctrine.

His daughter's personality and love for her father come through very strongly in her letters,; her life such an ostensibly sad one (so much effort and pleading for every extra coin, a room of her own, some materials for clothes) but she doesn't regret her monastic life.

The detail of the text brings the true story out, in all its shocking glory, and knowing how it took so long for Galileo's accuracy to be accepted after his own time only adds to the pathos of the book.

Well told but not light, it takes some effort to keep up.
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on 22 February 2004
We read this book as the monthly selection in our bookclub. The book is very interesting, but definitely NOT a FAST read. Several people in our bookclub commented that they felt the book was too long, and not well-edited. Some people had read Longitude, by the same author, and said that it was a better book. Nevertheless, when we discussed what we would have taken out, every person had a different opinion. For each of the things that one person in the group didn’t care for, another person in the group enjoyed. So I think it was fine.
Some people were disappointed that the book turned out to be more about Galileo than his daughter. But for me, I enjoyed that it was. I felt the last third of the book was the best. I learned a LOT from reading this book. Sobel brings the characters to life. I feel like I know Pope Urban now as a human being. I also know Galileo and his daughter both as human beings, just as if I had met all of these people in my current life. Some people in our group were not interested in the science presented in the book, but really enjoyed reading about all the herbal and plant remedies used during the Middle Ages. The herbal things didn’t interest me, but I LOVED the science discussions presented in the book.
No matter WHAT your interest, this book is a slow, but very worthwhile read. It stimulated me to want to read much more on many of the subjects that were only touched on in the book.
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on 14 July 2009
In Galileo's Daughter, Sobel has succeeded in writing a truly excellent book. We are taken masterfully through Galileo's life; from birth to death, via his publications, his family relationships and the Inquisition.

As the title suggests, a primary focus of the work is on the relationship between Galileo and his daughter, Maria Celeste. Her written letters to Galileo are worked gracefully into the main text by Sobel. At times she takes the narrative forward herself, whilst at others allows the reader to hear it from the words of Maria Celeste, which Sobel herself has translated.

The length of the book is perfect. Nothing is skimmed over, and we learn a vast deal about the great scientist, yet the book doesn't feel at all to drag on, presumably due to Sobel's masterful execution of the work.

A great book. Throughly recommended to all interested in the history of science, though its style makes it suitable for all.
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on 13 October 2000
This is a truly wonderful book, which through the letters of sour Maria Celeste,(Galileo's daughter), gives us a glimpse into the private domestic life of one of the worlds most publically troubled and greatest scientists. Dava Sobel has woven a marvellous tapestry in which Galileo's public and private life are laid out against the backdrop of political and religious intrigue and the ongoing quest for scientific advancement and understanding. This is a warm human book which is accesible to the non scientific mind and is a moving account of the love of a daughter for her father.
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on 16 April 2003
Before I started listening to this book I knew the story of this man, this scientist and his fate. After all, he was a legend of all times. Love... I never thought about it. I did not know whether he was married and how many children he had. I did not know and maybe did not care of his family and his personal life. Now I do. This book changed it all. Dava Sobel told me the story I did not know and Fritz Weaver read it with such an art.
A biography recreated from letters between father and the daughter. Many of these letters were missing, maybe destroyed, maybe kept in private collections. What a concept. This is a very good book full of knowledge and the heart. Thank you Dava Sobel and Fritz Weaver.
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2003
Galileo's Daughter is a thoroughly entertaining and brilliantly researched biography of the Italian scientist (despite its title), placing a special emphasis on the relationship between the famous mathematician and his daughter. As only one half of the letters between the pair survive it is a one-sided dialogue, but this does not detract from the book at all.
Although I was broadly familiar with the story of Galileo and his trials for heresy as he believed the Earth orbited the Sun, Sobel's skill in the writing of this book made me eager to turn the pages to find out what happened next.
All in all I thought this book was better than the author's more famous work Longitude.
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