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“This is really an amazing book. The insight that Ms. Sobel has opened into the times of 16th and 17th century Italy were incredibly informative, as Italy has never been my area of expertise. The conflicts and troubles between the scientists and the Church are especially relevant today with the...”see full review » see other reviews »
“So, given the title you'd think this would be about Galileo's daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, who he called "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me." Perhaps you might have thought that through her eyes--this account is partly based upon and includes several of her letters--you might gain insight into the mind of the man Einstein called "the father of modern physics--indeed of modern science altogether." Given she's described of "exquisite mind" perhaps you thought she might have contributed to his experiments or thinking. If you're expecting any of that, you're going to be disappointed. Really, this is a quick-reading biography of Galileo, and there are several chapters that deal with his life before his daughter enters into the story. And given she was a cloistered nun from her teenage years, hers was not a life of wide scope or interest aside from her being the daughter of a famous father. Her letters, though they show a loving daughter who had no doubts about her father's faith, don't reveal a remarkable intelligence--though that would be hard given the letters in the book are filled with little more than such mundane details as grocery and laundry lists and asking Galileo to fix a broken clock.
What seemed to have animated the book is Sobel's desire to argue there there is no reason to see science and faith as opposed, and to present Galileo as a devout and obedient son of the Catholic Church, particularly as demonstrated through his loving relationship with a supportive, devout daughter dedicated to the religious life. The Catholic Church both revered shouldn't be slurred with condemning Galileo according to Sobel:
"Technically, however, the anti-Copernican Edict of 1616 was issued by the Congregation of the Index, not by the Church. Similarly, in 1633, Galileo was tried and sentenced by the Holy Office of the Inquisition, not by the Church.”
Moreover, Sobel related, the Catholic pontiffs who condoned both rulings didn't "invoke papal infallibility." Alrighty then, that must have consoled Galileo: who was forced to renounce the Copernican theory, found his books banned, was put under house arrest for the rest of his life--after dealing with the Inquisition and the threat of being put under torture or even burned at the stake--as the Astronomer Bruno had been in 1600 by the Inquisition just decades before. The sad thing to me is as Sobel presented it Galileo had done everything he could to follow Church teaching and rulings. He submitted his book on Copernican theory to the Church's censor--told them to change whatever they wanted to, got a license to print it and the Church's imprimatur. But the Pope was convinced that Galileo was mocking him personally in the book, had him prosecuted, and the book appeared in the next Index of Proscribed Books where it would stay for 200 years. But we shouldn't blame the Catholic Church. Nope, it was all just a "tragic mutual misunderstanding." That all reads to me not so much as apologia as satire, yet Sobel does convince me that Galileo truly didn't want a breach with the Church and was a man of faith and science. But for me that just makes more poignant, and more disgraceful, the bullying of an elderly old man by the machinery of the Church.
If the book had a strength though, it was how lucidly it explained the science and Galileo's discoveries--just why he can right be called a father of modern science. And after reading some very dense histories lately, it was something of a relief to read something easier that you could cut through like a heated knife through butter. But I didn't think I got more than a rather superficial gloss on Galileo's life and times.”
“Somehow engaging when not very exciting. No mistake this is a bio of Galileo. The daughter part is a light distraction from his life story. But the a great surprise conclusion to the story.”Mary Ann M wrote this review Friday, June 28, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great read! Galileo's life is chronicled by his daughter through her letters. Sobel fills in the history along the way. It is a timeless message of how beliefs are often stronger than truth... ”Bill Taylor wrote this review Monday, June 10, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is an absorbing view of the life of Galileo, told largely from the perspective of his daughter, who became a nun. Although it has less detail on the two trials of the famous astronomer, it shows Galileo as a man of faith, despite the science he discovered in opposition to Church views.”davidthewriter wrote this review Monday, April 15, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A very insightful book on the life of Galileo.”RY wrote this review Monday, February 18, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Excellent reading after my visit to Italy.”Don Mayfield wrote this review Monday, February 18, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A wonderful book! Particularly if you enjoy science and history. This fascinating account of the dispute between religious beliefs and science is the heart of Dava Sobel's book. Letters between Galileo and his daughter are the foundation of the book. Extremely interesting!”Victor Silva wrote this review Tuesday, January 29, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A wonderful insight into Galileo and more importantly his daughter ”James Evans wrote this review Wednesday, January 23, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Very interesting. Uprooted a number of misconceptions I had about Galileo's beliefs. It also painted a descriptive picture of life in the 1600s...rough.”Ted Stavas wrote this review Monday, January 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No