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Galileo's daughter : a historical memoir of science, faith, and love
Dava Sobel
Adult Nonfiction QB36.G2 S65 1999

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Despite its title, this impressive book proves to be less the story of Galileo's elder daughter, the oldest of his three illegitimate children, and more the story of Galileo himself and his trial before the Inquisition for arguing that Earth moves around the Sun. That familiar tale is given a new slant by Sobel's translationÄfor the first time into EnglishÄof the 124 surviving letters to Galileo by his daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, a Clarisse nun who died at age 33; his letters to her are lost, presumably destroyed by Maria Celeste's convent after her death. Her letters may not in themselves justify a book; they are devout, full of pious love for the father she addresses as "Sire," only rarely offering information or insight. But Sobel uses them as the accompaniment to, rather than the core of, her story, sounding the element of faith and piety so often missing in other retellings of Galileo's story. For Sobel shows that, in renouncing his discoveries, Galileo acted not just to save his skin but also out of a genuine need to align himself with his church. With impressive skill and economy, she portrays the social and psychological forces at work in Galileo's trial, particularly the political pressures of the Thirty Years' War, and the passage of the plague through Italy, which cut off travel between Florence, where Galileo lived, and Rome, the seat of the Pope and the Inquisition, delaying Galileo's appearance there and giving his enemies time to conspire. In a particularly memorable way, Sobel vivifies the hard life of the "Poor Clares," who lived in such abject poverty and seclusion that many were driven mad by their confinement. It's a wholly involving tale, a worthy follow-up (after four years) to Sobel's surprise bestseller, Longitude. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Sobel, a former New York Times science writer and author of the surprise best-seller Longitude, has produced another creative and compelling work. In addition to the surviving letters from Galileo's daughter, which Sobel has translated into English for the first time, she has done broad and imaginative research to write a science biography that reveals her technical insight and originality. Galileo's daughters, Virginia (the daughter of the title) and Livia, were admitted to the Convent of San Matteo while they were in their early teens and spent the remainder of their lives in that cloistered setting. Virginia, who took the name Maria Celeste, was very close to her father and demonstrates a keen mind and scientific understanding in her letters to him. As he proceeds with his discoveries that led to his theory that Earth moves around the sunÄan argument that directly countered the teaching and position of the Catholic ChurchÄGalileo's communication with her demonstrates his reconciliation of science and religion. Unfortunately, the Pope and his advisers were not of similar resolution. Sobel has a remarkable ability to explain technical subjects without being simplistic or pedantic. There is a tremendous amount of fascinating detail in this work, and yet it reads as smoothly and compellingly as fiction. Highly recommended. [See interview with Sobel on p. 128.ÄEd.]ÄHilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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