A fascinating look at the life of controversial astronomer Galileo and the mores, politics and daily lives of 17th century Italians through the correspondence of his cloistered illegitimate eldest daughter. Dava Sobel is writes sparely and lets her superb research tell the story.
This is one of those rare books that entertains and informs. It's a superbly written biography of both Galileo & his older daughter, Virginia, (b. in 1600). She was 13 when Galileo placed her in a convent; & later, in 1616, took her vows with the name of Suor Maria Celeste. Sobel translated 124 of her letters (inc. in the book) written to her father. These give fascinating details of daily life - food, clothing, illnesses (& remedies) such as the plague, etc. during the 17th century. Upon Galileo's death in 1642, his friends wanted to erect a mausoleum befitting such a scientific genius, but Pope Urban VIII forbade it. Sobel dramatically recounts the night - 95 yrs. after his death--that his body was moved to the present ornate mausoleum in the Santa Croce Basilica in Florence. Dozens of wonderful illustrations enhance the reading pleasure of the book. Highly recommended.
Finally got around to finish reading this book, having initially picking it up some time ago and set it aside after the first few pages. The intricate arguments surrounding astronomical phenomenon doesn’t really interest me – the deductions, the implications of not saying anything that could put existing Church doctrine into question, the minute detail invoked by the political infighting between different schools of thought ... That said, the details about Galileo & his family’s lifestyle – Life in Italian cities during the 1600’s, the convent life of his daughters, his position in society, - I found really interesting – such as the fact that his home was a working estate with hay harvested & fruits made into candies, wine, the medicinal use of herbs etc. Reading about the plague & its effects on everyday life and of the Papal inquisition into his writings was quite riveting reading. Very well written and liked being able to read some of his daughter’s letter directly as I found it helped round out the story.
Finalist of the 2000 Pulitzer prize for biography.
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