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Sunshine

Galileo's Daughter

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Having just finished this book i felt compelled to give my opinion as i'm sure some of you must have read it. I wasn't sure what to expect given the title of the book, so i went in with an open mind and, was ready for whatever it offered. Now having digested it carefully, i am left with a sense that i wanted more details surrounding Galileo's work and, how he came to his conclusions. Yes i do realize that this is not a textbook, it is a very detailed account of the circumstances leading up to and, after, Galileo's plight with the church (or should i say inquisitors) i say that because the author makes a point so clarify that his trouble was brought on by the inquisition and, its body, rather than with the pope himself. Having said that, i don't believe that distinction can be made simply because the pope was the ultimate power in deciding whether or not to carry out recommendations made by inquisitors.

Right from the start we gain a sense of the deep father daughter relationship between Galileo and his daughter, namely Maria Celeste, unfortunately his other daughter whom he had installed in the convent at the same time, receives far less mention throughout the book. Maria Celeste's letters are numerous, and the author does a great justice to her by copying her word verbatim as those letters are presented to the reader. Maria Celeste was a remarkable woman, a saint, and her undying love for her father was undoubtedly the fuel which carried, Galileo, throughout his most troubled times. From the POV of a reader with great interest in Galileos work (as you would be if you bought the book) you may feel as i did when i felt that just as the author was getting into the meat on the bone with regards to a particular observation made by the great man, suddenly, it was glossed over too quickly in favour of another letter from his daughter.

This gave me a sense of longing several times, yes, i understood what the author was doing but, a little more meat would have been nice. I have always wondered about Galileo's daughters, this book answered all those questions in detail, even if the letters Galileo sent her did not survive, we gain great insight into what his letters contained by her responses to him. We learn how much his daughters meant to him but, i can't help but to wonder, he knew of the appalling conditions in the convent, hunger, bitter cold, hard floors to keep on, i can't help to wonder what would compel a man, any man, to allow his daughter to languish for so long in this way. This is what i struggle with after reading this book, yes, Galileo provided for her on every occasion she asked, through her letters, he provided for her and, visited whenever he could, but it was a prison no less and, he could have provided for and sheltered them both, he had the means.

The author did a great job of detailing Galileo's friction with the church, which was not as ruthless as i had originally thought (from a physical harm) POV, i had always imagined Galileo kept for years in solitary on a cold floor but, this was not the case. Galileo's worst time came some eight years before his death where, his works were banned and, he was forced into house arrest until the end, he did have many visitors and was free to visit his daughter only but, what is heartbreaking is that Maria Celeste passed away only a few months after Galileo was set free from Sienna i believe and, allowed to come home which was a short walk to his daughters convent. What i found so fascinating was the account of when Galileo's body was finally moved from his original resting place, to the Basilica of Santa Croce some 80 plus years after, the pope did not want Galileo laid to rest among other greats in the basilica, noting he was not worthy of such "fuss" and absolutely prohibited it (what a giant fart he was).

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand Galileo's personal life, i must admit, though, sometimes i found myself hurrying through some letters from his daughter which too often spoke of apples in the garden or the endless spring rains.Asside from that, i really enjoyed this book, if not a very detailed account of the minutia of Galileos work, it is, an amazing account of himself as a man, a father and, his struggles. Oh yes, what i did not know, which was described so well was the fact that Maria Celeste was, in fact, laid to rest with her father.

 

 

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Edited by Sunshine
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Plus one for this one. An enjoyable read. Not an academic tomb, but by no means a frothy popular history stocking filler either.

Paul

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Certainly worth reading. I enjoyed it for its insights into Galileo's private life, for instance.

Olly

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Read this many years ago and recall it being a good read and well researched

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I will have to put this on my "to read list".

I remember seeing a documentary on PBS, and realized his daughter was his connection with the outside world while he was basically under "house arrest".

Everything together makes an incredible story of the life of an amazing man.

 

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I also read Longitude by Dava Sobel and that was very good.

It was actually the surgeon who dd my back operation who recommend it to read during my recovery.

Edited by m.tweedy
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On 17/01/2019 at 10:12, ollypenrice said:

Certainly worth reading. I enjoyed it for its insights into Galileo's private life, for instance.

Olly

Completely agree.  There's plenty written about his scientific achievements, but I enjoyed the book because it says much more about what he was like as a person.

As to why he felt it best (or even that he felt compelled) to place his daughters in a convent I think that's very difficult to pass judgement on.  Modern society is so far removed from the world in which he and Maria Celeste lived that what might seem unkind or even wilfully cruel to us may well have been the best practical long-term outcome given her illegitimacy. 

It's many years since I read the book and this thread might well prompt me to dig it out and re-read it.

Anyone care to comment on her book on Copernicus?

James

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On 13/02/2019 at 17:41, JamesF said:

Anyone care to comment on her book on Copernicus?

Hmm, i wasn't aware of this book but, thanks for mentioning it, i will look into it.

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