Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love

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9780001056121: Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love
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Galileo's Daughter is the story of the relationship between the great Italian scientist Galileo and his daughter, by the author of Longitude. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the foremost scientist of his day. His inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. His telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to defend the astounding proposition that the earth actually moves around the Sun. For this belief was tried for heresy and threatened with torture. Galileo is brought to life here as never before -- a man boldly compelled to explain the truths he discovered, human in his frailties and faith, devoted to his family and, especially, to his daughter. Since there could be no hope of marriage for his illegitimate daughter Galileo placed her, aged thirteen, in the convent of San Mateo in Arcetri. She was perhaps her father's equal in brilliance, industry and sensibility, and she proved to be his greatest source of strength through his most difficult years. Dava Sobel reveals the short life of Sister Marie Celeste through the 120 letters the nun wrote to her father from 1623 to her death ten years later from exposure, malnutrition and a broken heart at the age of 33 years. The letters reveal a loving relationship, a mutual passion for science and a unique insight into early modern history, all woven into Dava Sobel's compelling narrative. Galileo's Daughter tells the story of the most dramatic collision in history between science and religion. Sobel illuminates an entire era, when one man fought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. Galileo's Daughter is a rich and unforgettable story.

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Everyone knows that Galileo Galilei dropped cannonballs off the leaning tower of Pisa, developed the first reliable telescope, and was convicted by the Inquisition for holding a heretical belief--that the earth revolved around the sun. But did you know he had a daughter? In Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel (author of the bestselling Longitude) tells the story of the famous scientist and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. Sobel bases her book on 124 surviving letters to the scientist from the nun, whom Galileo described as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and tenderly attached to me." Their loving correspondence revealed much about their world: the agonies of the bubonic plague, the hardships of monastic life, even Galileo's occasional forgetfulness ("The little basket, which I sent you recently with several pastries, is not mine, and therefore I wish you to return it to me").

While Galileo tangled with the Church, Maria Celeste--whose adopted name was a tribute to her father's fascination with the heavens--provided moral and emotional support with her frequent letters, approving of his work because she knew the depth of his faith. As Sobel notes, "It is difficult today ... to see the Earth at the center of the Universe. Yet that is where Galileo found it." With her fluid prose and graceful turn of phrase, Sobel breathes life into Galileo, his daughter, and the earth-centered world in which they lived. --Sunny Delaney

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Galileo's Daughter introduces us to the man whose belief that the Earth moved around the sun caused him to be brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and threatened with torture. In contrast, his daughter Virginia chose the quiet life of a cloistered nun. Sobel takes us through the trials and triumphs of Galileo's career and his familial relationships, and simultaneously illuminates an entire era of flamboyant Medici Grand Dukes, the bubonic plague, and history's most dramatic collusion between science and religion.

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