Sunday, December 04, 2011

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

Galileo's Daughter is an account of the close relationship between the famous scientist and his daughter, who was a nun. The book incorporates many of Marie Celeste's letters to her father and outlines how she supported his life and work from her isolated situation in the convent. At the same time the book looks at Galileo's major scientific achievements and his relationship with the Catholic Church.

Galileo was interrogated by the Inquisition for daring to agree with Copernicus' earlier hypothesis that the earth moved round the sun. The book in which he supported Copernicus had been discussed by prominent church men and had been passed by them for publication pending a few alterations. However, when the Pope found himself struggling politically he realised he had to be seen to take a hardline against any potential heretics and suddenly Galileo was being interrogated! For the early part of the time that he was imprisoned after his interrogations, Galileo was under house arrest in the homes of his supporters and used this time to write a lot more and to hold scientific discussions. Obviously the Pope didn't like that and so he was banished to house arrest in his own home, which was isolated from anywhere apart from the convent where his daughter lived. Sadly Marie Celeste died soon after Galileo was imprisoned in his own home so their closeness on that occasion didn't last long. Galileo, despite suffering from poor health for most of his life and living in times when the plague regularly swept across Italy, lived to be 77.

This is a book full of fascinating insights into Galileo's scientific achievements, into his relationship with his daughter and into everyday life in 16th and 17th Century Italy.

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, published by Fourth Estate

for the Italy in Books Reading Challenge

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