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Testing, and testing, and retesting. Taking on the word of Aristotle by proving something. Sure, his discoveries are important - but he changed the way we approach problems - and that impacts all branches of Science - whereas discovering some moons mostly effects astronomy.
As for Religion, I found it odd that Sobel didn't talk about Luther more. He gets mentioned a couple times, whereas The Thirty Years War gets brought up often. Part of the reason the church and when I say the church, I'm talking about the Catholic church here, not the Protestants And yes, that's more in the time-frame, but certainly they hadn't forgotten about The 95 Theses.
That was the catalyst. Either way, the church was fighting an uphill battle with Galileo. I imagine one could argue that God was on his side. Science at least was. This brings up one of Galileo's main points. Nature cannot contradict the Bible. If we see something in nature that contradicts scripture, either we aren't looking at it correctly, or our interpretation of scripture is incorrect.
He says, "Holy Scripture cannot err and the decrees therein contained are absolutely true and and inviolable. I should only have added that, though Scripture cannot err, its expounders and interpreters are liable to err in many ways At the time, these claims were edgy, no doubt.
But even so, I'd contend Galileo was still a good decent Catholic. When the church told him to censor his book, he did. He blacked out "the offending passages. I heard that Stalin censored the same way. He'd outright ban books, or he'd have everyone black out offending passages.
And, I know I'm going out on a limb here I know I'm getting away from Galileo That if someone comes along and wants to censor something, with books they have to go one at a time. With e-books, a person can just click - - - - - - - and it's gone. View 1 comment. Dec 29, Silvana rated it really liked it Recommended to Silvana by: Capitu. Shelves: bookmooch , biogramoir , used-to-own , female-nonbinary-authors. Galileo had a daughter? So what?
That question may be raised, which is understandable. Besides, famous people do procreate, right? Well, if you read this book, you surely will change your mind. Dava Sobel again amazed me with her skill in combining history, science and human relations into one book. Not many authors could do such thing, I daresay.
She successfully wove this story of a brave, intelligent, resourceful young woman, who had a geniu Galileo had a daughter? She successfully wove this story of a brave, intelligent, resourceful young woman, who had a genius as her father and how both of them relied on each other to live in difficult times. By the way, his daughter was a cloistered nun with the name Maria Celeste.
Her surviving correspondence with Galileo is the main ingredient used by Sobel to describe the dynamics of this unique father-daughter relationship. The contents varied; from her request to Galileo to buy her things such as herbs and linens, the news update on what was going on in her convent, to her consolation for Galileo when he was facing trials in Rome.
Not only letters apparently, but she also made him clothes and medicines. It was as though she lived in the same house with him and took care of him. Walls and distance were not barriers. Imagine if they both had Blackberrys. Couriers and diplomatic missions were walking around bringing a copy of Dialogue as they please. Galileo was lucky to have so many admirers in Europe, including even a few high ranking cardinals who felt enlightened when reading his works.
One thing that bothers me was that Galileo did his best to ensure that Dialogue would not cause any ruckus. He used the proper channels, consulted to the relevant officials, gathered sufficient supports from prominent nobles and even sought an audience with the Pope to discuss the book! Nevertheless, one could always find a tiny bit of something to be used as incriminating evidence.
Galileo finally admitted guilty and let himself a frail 69 year old then to be punished. Anyway, IMHO his punishment was not too depressing. House arrest in the residence of a Sienese cardinal who was one of his strong supporters? He could still write, received some guests some with the permission from the Papal Office and had correspondence with fellow scientists and family. Seriously now, I understand that it was still hard for him. He had lots of enemies who would love to see him rot miserably.
The pressure he had to face must have been horrendous. Having your ultimate work - which took decades in the making — banned and that you could not publish anything ever again, must be frustrating as hell. For future readers, please do not be disheartened from reading the scientific explanation in this book. First, there are lots of them anyway haha. The historical account in this book, describing the flow of events and characters in that illustrious Renaissance era, is truly mesmerizing.
The interaction between the states and duchies, the politics inside the Papal court and even the bubonic plague present a thrilling read. Back to Suor Maria Celeste, Galileo described her as a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness and most tenderly attached to him. I guess he realized that she was his greatest treasure and would be thankful if people could pay her a proper homage when thinking about how great a scientist he was.
Mar 27, Mike rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography , history , science. It seems ludicrous in today's age of technology and incremental achievements that one man could ever accomplish as much as Galileo, who discovered almost half of the planets we know of today and rubbished claims held scientifically for thousands of years.
Galileo Galilei was born into a time and a place that could not have been more perfect for him. At the turn of the 17th century, much of Europe had already cast off the oppressive cloak of ignorance held fast by the Catholic Church for the previ It seems ludicrous in today's age of technology and incremental achievements that one man could ever accomplish as much as Galileo, who discovered almost half of the planets we know of today and rubbished claims held scientifically for thousands of years.
At the turn of the 17th century, much of Europe had already cast off the oppressive cloak of ignorance held fast by the Catholic Church for the previous millennium. In Italy, Florence had given birth to the Renaissance and was spearheading the drive towards new knowledge. This was an age in which Galileo would be able to meet such luminaries as Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes and John Milton, to name but the best known internationally among them. During his more than seventy years he pushed the boundaries of astronomy, philosophy and physics in a way unseen since the days of Aristotle, adapting the telescope and discovering several planets, pushed ideas that would be the basis on which Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein would work.
And into that life stepped the overbearing, insecure Pope Urban VIII, who would ban Galileo from teaching and printing any of his ideas, since his work was 'contrary to Scripture'. It is difficult for anyone with an enquiring mind, a sense of freedom or justice or even a passing interest in science not to become angry to the point of rage at the story of Galileo's life.
So much more could have been achieved and discovered had he been allowed by the neurotic idiots at the Vatican to continue his work. What comes from a reading of this book is an enormous amount of respect for Galileo Galilei, fury at the wilfully ignorant buffoons who would have us living in the Stone Age that they may remain in power, and love for the depth of feeling he shared with his daughter.
Galileo remained as good a Christian as any whilst the captains of that religion sought to rid the world of his findings. The letters he received from his daughter his to her have not survived show a huge love worthy of a story in its own right. In the end, Grand Duke Ferdinando of Florence, though banned from giving Galileo anything but the most basic of burials, called him "the greatest light of our times".
Now, envy ceasing, the sublimity of that intellect will begin to be known which will serve all posterity as guide in the search for truth. This is a wonderfully written book which takes an interesting angle of approach and succeeds entirely. Sobel's narrative, thorough and full of explanation for the less scientifically knowledgeable, is easy to read and even poetic in places.
View 2 comments. Galileo's oldest child, born of his illicit liaison with the beautiful Marina Gamba of Venice, was thirteen years old when he placed her at the Convent of San Matteo in Arcetri. He never married her mother, so he thought that the girl would be unmarriageable. Her given name was Virginia after Galileo's sister , but when she became a nun, she adopted the name Maria Celeste, a name inspired by her fathers work in astronomy as in celestial.
She was part of the Order of St. Clare, a contemplative order of nuns known as the Clarrises, or the Poor Clares. The order was named for the first female follower of St. Francis of Assisi. She initiated the tradition of work in the convents, filling the hours between daily offices with spinning and embroidery. The rules of the order enforced a very ascetic existence even compared to other convents, as all Poor Clares were dependent on alms.
Galileo frequently sent financial assistance to the convent, but it was still a very difficult way to live. The book includes many excerpts from Maria Celeste's letters to her father, of which letters survive. Although they wrote to each other frequently, Galileo's side of the correspondence has not been preserved.
Galileo began his career as a professor of mathematics, but the work in astronomy for which he is best known began when, in , he became the first person to point a telescope skyward. The telescope revealed previously unseen features on the moon, a closer view of the Milky Way than could be seen with the naked eye revealing its dense clusters of stars , and the first four moons of Jupiter.
For these discoveries, he won appointment as chief mathematician and philosopher at the court of Cosimo de Medici in He published a book, The Starry Messenger, describing his observations. It sold out within a week of publication. In letters to his former student Benedetto Castelli and to the Duchess Christina daughter of Charles III of Lorraine Galileo explained why he thought that the heliocentric view of universe was not in conflict with scripture.
The first letter became widely circulated and a Dominican friar who heard about it, Tommaso Caccini, arrived at the Inquisition's offices in Rome to denounce Galileo for heresy. At the end of , Galileo traveled to Rome hoping to clear his name of the suspicion of heresy. In , Galileo was warned to curtail his studies of the motions of heavenly bodies and told that the subject was best left to the fathers of the Church. For seven years he obeyed, turning his attention to other issues, such as using the moons of Jupiter to calculate longitude and developing a compound microscope with which he observed insects.
Galileo knew him personally; he had demonstrated his telescope to him and discussed the physics of floating bodies with him at a banquet at the Florentine court. So Galileo hoped that under the new pope, he would be allowed to return to the study of astronomy, and he decided to proceed with his plans to write a book on the two rival theories of cosmology, the sun-centered and the earth-centered.
The following year, Galileo was brought in for questioning by the Inquisition. He was tried and convicted of heresy, imprisoned, and eventually released under a revised sentence of house arrest. He then sold his home in Tuscany in order to move closer to the Convent of San Matteo and serve his time under house arrest there, but a few months later she fell ill and died of dysentery at the age of I really enjoyed this, mostly for the narrative itself, but also because of the author's narration, which includes asides like this one on Galileo's experiments: Although this account reveals stunning experiments that promise to open a new window on philosophy, Salviati cannot be shaken from his recently acquired pedantic monotone, which threatens to establish an irreparable split, if not between science and religion, then between science and poetry.
I listened to most of this on audio, but I also had a library copy of the ebook, both checked out from OverDrive. View all 8 comments. Galileo was punished by being placed under house arrest and ordered to publicly affirm his belief in the earth-centred universe. We learn as well that Galileo was a generous benefactor of the Convent, and that Suor Maria Celeste served as an apothecary and was sought out by the abbesses to write important letters.
I admit that my primary focus was on Galileo, but I found myself liking Suor Maria Celeste and wanting to know more about her. This book brings them both to life. View all 5 comments. Jul 27, Anne rated it it was ok. This is a biography of Galileo, told in part through letters written to him by his illegitimate daughter, a cloistered nun and Galileo's confidante. Over letters written by her survive, though all of the letters from Galileo to his daughter have reportedly been lost or destroyed.
While the familial relationship was interesting, I didn't feel as if the correspondence added much to the narrative, and it seemed as if most of the biographical information about Galileo came from other sources. As This is a biography of Galileo, told in part through letters written to him by his illegitimate daughter, a cloistered nun and Galileo's confidante.
As I am not particularly interested in astronomy, mathematics, or physics, I found most of the discussion of Galileo's findings and research a bit boring I know it's all incredibly important and I respect that, I just don't care to read about it. I was interested in Galileo's treatment by the church, but at this point I feel like most of that information is common knowledge, and I almost felt as if Sobel's retelling of the story was like reading a high school textbook.
I was unimpressed by her writing, and felt as if the use of the letters was too gimmicky - a way to appear to have a new angle on Galileo's life, but not really adding much overall. That being said, a very well-read friend of mine who reads biographies by the dozen loves this book - and feels that it was most certainly deserving of all the praise it has received. More science-minded individuals would probably enjoy it. Aug 22, Erin rated it it was ok. I was really disappointed in this book.
I knew when I purchased it that it wasn't actually about Galileo's daughter, that the story was almost entirely Galileo's. It didn't really. This is a fairly dry biography of Galileo and the personal and professional events that shaped his life. There's not much more to it. In the book, Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, having been consigned to I was really disappointed in this book.
In the book, Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste, having been consigned to a convent as a preteen, is now a nun who rarely sees her father and communicates with him via letters. Her letters to him have survived and many are included in the book, but they don't shed as much light on Galileo's life as I'd hoped. I got really, really bored with the narrative, which was a very straightforward telling of the events of Galileo's life.
In my opinion, nonfiction is always best when it reads like a novel and not like a history book. Unfortunately, this was a history book. I didn't enjoy the read and didn't take much away from it. It was a disappointment. Dava Sobel is perhaps my favourite non-fiction author. She has this ability to discuss the history of science in an enlightening and inspiring way.
Her books make these historical figures come alive. While Galileo is far better known than the subjects of her more recent The Glass Universe , Sobel takes a new approach to biography of him by including letters from his daughter, Maria Celeste.
Sobel tackles Galileo the myth, deconstructs it, and shows us Galileo the man. From the writings of cardinals and other correspondents, we see Galileo the gentleman philosopher. From the transcripts of his trials, we see Galileo the penitent Catholic. His sin, if you will, was simply that he wanted to share his science with the rest of the world. Some of us take for granted how unfettered our speech is at least in my corner of the world.
I can, if I choose, write whatever I want on this website I have built myself, and I could even pay someone to print and bind my words in hard copy if I wanted to do that. That is truly cancel culture, folx. It was more about certain people in the Church, including the once-friendly Pope Urban, being concerned with maintaining the power base of the Church in the face of an increasing number of restless Protestant states.
Galileo was writing in a time of great religious and also political upheaval, particularly the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia and the resulting modern definition of a sovereign state. Lest you think Sobel focuses too much on the big picture, however, never fear: she also focuses on the minutiae of Florentine or Roman life.
Yes, Sobel argues—and I agree—because we need to dismantle this idea of Great Men. Behind Great Men are not just Great Women but entire communities of people of all genders. Galileo had a large extended family, some of whom lived with him at various points in his chronically ill life. He had a housekeeper, a valet, apprentices. He had daughters, one of whom wrote frequently to him. These details matter because they remind us that history happens not because of a single great person forging ahead alone but rather because individuals and groups of individuals have the support and privilege required to make, in this case, scientific discoveries.
Nowadays travel between Rome and Florence is a routine matter of hours. Indeed, the spectre of the bubonic plague is an important one in this book, and Sobel reminds us of how many lives were cut short. Yeah, that brought up some feels…. This is yet another marvelous work of history from a master of it. I, for one, appreciate how this humanizes someone we might otherwise be tempted to turn into a giant.
Scientific progress, not to mention social progress, is far from linear. Galileo was censored in his time and remained so for centuries. Along the way, we saw some people make great strides forward in science, other people try to undo that progress. I hope this book offers us lessons of our past that we can apply to our present as we work to build a better, fairer, more open future of discovery. Originally posted on Kara. Reviews , where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.
Nov 30, Paul rated it it was amazing. This is an amazing book, and just the thing to cleanse the mental palate after inflicting Nancy Kress' An Alien Light on myself. Galileo's story is really at the crux of the transition from Aristotelian physics to what we now call Newtonian or classical physics.
It was Galileo and his contemporaries who finally broke the stranglehold that Aristotle had on philosophy in the West and improved on him. Today we are generally told a very few things about Galileo: - He was essentially the first to use This is an amazing book, and just the thing to cleanse the mental palate after inflicting Nancy Kress' An Alien Light on myself. Today we are generally told a very few things about Galileo: - He was essentially the first to use a telescope on the night sky and observe new phenomena, such as the moons of Jupiter or the roughness of the moon or a dim impression of Saturn's rings.
That's all I knew about him for many years. I had grasped more details in the last several years before reading this book, but it gives me an overflowing wealth of information about his life and a much better idea of the history and details of the controversy that led to his trial in Rome. Obviously I recommend anyone and everyone read this book for themselves and get these details. I actually saw this author speak, largely about this book, in Indianapolis in or , so I snapped the book up right away when I saw it at a used bookstore in Honolulu overcrowded baggage be damned.
What I find most amazing is that this woman is Jewish, yet she sympathetically advances the thesis that Galileo was throughout his life a staunch Catholic who made himself enemies by his sharp wit and criticism of establishment i. Aristotelian, which was nearly everyone at the time academics, who were able to bring about his condemnation after many years, while he retained many friends, also intellectually committed Catholics, who were convinced of his sincerity and that his interpretations of his discoveries were perfectly reconcilable with the faith.
I will end by noting that Galileo's Daughter is his eldest daughter, an intelligent and committed Poor Clare with whom Galileo corresponded often. Most of the correspondence Dava included in the book is about the daily human affairs of early seventeenth century Italy and gives a comforting picture of the humanity of both Galileo, Suor Maria, and the people around them. Mar 30, Kaara rated it liked it. This book was clearly a labor of love, well researched and with sympathetic, very human depictions of Galileo, his daughter Sister Maria Celeste, and other folks.
I learned a lot about Galileo's unbelievable discoveries, his equally important and forward-thinking contributions to the scientific community in terms of process and rigor, his family, and the politics, culture, and technology of the times he lived in. All very interesting.
But the angle of this book, of Galileo's life being viewed th This book was clearly a labor of love, well researched and with sympathetic, very human depictions of Galileo, his daughter Sister Maria Celeste, and other folks. But the angle of this book, of Galileo's life being viewed through the eyes of his daughter, who shared his enormous intellect and capabilities and with whom he had a loving relationship, didn't really Intelligent and accomplished as she seemed to be, she was a cloistered nun her entire short life, and, while her letters to Galileo survived, his letters to her did not; both these factors limited Maria Celeste as a main player in the narrative, despite the author's efforts.
Nevertheless, a fascinating and inspiring story and sobering--seems that every era has its folks who would rather hurt people than accept a change in common knowledge. Mar 29, Max Kahn rated it did not like it. I hate it so much. It's terrible. Not even about his daughter. Ruined AP Euro for me. Ruined literature for me. Every day that I wake up in the world where this book exists I am miserable. I'd give it 0 stars if possible. One day I will burn my copy of it.
Sep 14, Edward rated it really liked it. Most people vaguely know of Galileo, the 16th century Italian astronomer who overturned the centuries-old Ptolemaic belief that the sun revolves around earth and subsequently found himself in trouble with the Catholic Church. What Sobel does in this book is to put a specific human face on the man, to show how, despite his brilliance, he was a man of his time, a devout Catholic, and a man like most of us who had worries about money, the welfare of his children, his health.
I think it was a matter of two factors. First, church theologians thought that a system that had the earth revolving around the sun contradicted Biblical passsages such as those from Ecclesiastes which has the sun rising and setting or the passage showing the sun stopping for Joshua. For Galileo this was never a problem as he thought, along with Augustine, that the interpretation of the Bible should never be restricted to a literal one.
A worthy aim, and that was all. Secondly, the Catholic Church, then as today, did not like to admit error. Interestingly, no one really disputed either man on experimental data — it was a question of rejecting them because they opposed ideas of Aristotle who was highly revered. There, the matter stood until 15 years later, the case was reopened. Cardinal Bellarmine, dead, was no longer around to stand up for Galileo, and he faced a very conservative panel of Inquisition cardinals who felt his dialogue was just a sneaky way of promoting a heretical position.
He was given a relatively lenient punishment, provided he recanted and admitted his position was false one.. Galileo had no argument with the Church overall, just on this particular point. He continued his research, although he was not allowed to publish anything. Should Galileo have acted differently? He was by now an old man, in poor health, and what was the point of subjecting himself to suffering and torture?
His findings were already known, abroad in Protestant countries, if not in Italy. And he was supporting family members who would have been destitute without him. Given these considerations, his actions are understandable. The book fills in his life, then. Today, I think there is a parallel to be drawn between Galileo and the controversy over global warming. Vested interests, then as now, are opposed to changes that would mean a reversal of the accepted ways of thinking and doing things.
Apr 06, Dan rated it really liked it. This book is first and foremost a historical narrative about Galileo. Galileo never married which was not uncommon amongst the educated class. Of his many children he was closest to his daughter Virginia, the daughter referenced in the title of the book, and his son Vivencio. The author had access to a large number of letters that Virginia wrote to her father over decades and included many in the book, thus the title. Most of the scenes in the book are set in Pisa, Florence or Rome.
All places integral to Renaissance history and extremely interesting in their own right. Also covered in the book are the periods including the Bubonic plague, the Thirty Years War and an epidemic of food shortages in Florence. Highly dramatic events. Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Florence in His father was a mathematician of local renown. Galileo when he came of age was unable to secure a spot to attend the university at Pisa so he took up a tutorship for the powerful Medici family.
His brilliance quickly became known and he was then able to secure a professorship at Pisa in mathematics. It was also at this time that Galileo became close to Pope Paul V who supported his scientific research. Galileo contributed mightily to the canon of scientific discovery. In he expanded on a new compound eyeglass invention to become the first to use a telescope for astronomy. In short order he examined the moon in detail, explored sunspots and the Jovian giants and published his results.
This disturbed many in the church who viewed the sun and moon as perfect heavenly bodies. Fortunately for Galileo, the Pope seemed more intrigued with the findings than dismayed. It was around this time that Galileo performed his famous experiment proving that gravity acted equally on light and heavy objects.
His demonstration involved dropping a cannonball and a smaller musket ball from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He proved that they would drop at the same speed and hit the ground at the same time. Kepler also independently came to this conclusion at the same time as Galileo. Of course the Catholic Church did not believe in the heliocentric theory. Their dogma placed the earth at the center of the universe. But Galileo chipped away at the edges. He acknowledged that there was no test that he could devise to prove this.
Although the new Pope was not hostile to Galileo he was hostile to the heliocentric theory. While Galileo was spared the ultimate sentence by Urban VIII he did serve six months and was banned from discussing his scientific findings. He lived on for another decade and although he did continue to discuss his theories he maintained a much lower profile. Galileo was buried in the Santa Croce church in Florence with his daughter Virginia and his close assistant Viviani.
He lived a long life and until that last decade, he had managed to thread the needle between science and blasphemy. I was tempted to give this book the full 5 stars as it is an interesting book, reads as a narrative and there is an impressive level of research. However most of the letters printed in the book were of a similar nature and redundant. Virginia professes her love for Galileo and then spells out the more the mundane accounting details of day to day life. She is not central to the story beyond this context.
I would have liked to see more science coverage in the book as Galileo was every bit as interesting and important to science as anyone in history including Newton or Einstein. Why would a very good hearted and wise girl not be given any chance to use her mind but only her labor and live a very poor and unfulfilling life. Thus is the life of Suor Maria Celeste. Only finding a little happiness may be in knowing the happiness and contentment of those she loved and served.
Still I find it shocking that even the light of a very enlightened father cannot reduce the darkness of ignorance and Why would a very good hearted and wise girl not be given any chance to use her mind but only her labor and live a very poor and unfulfilling life.
Still I find it shocking that even the light of a very enlightened father cannot reduce the darkness of ignorance and disparity from his own house. To all the women who sacrificed their lives one way or another, believing this to be necessary for making others' lives happy or comfortable or livable; I hope it was worth it, for its such a high price to pay; and I hope life honors your sacrifices and gives you some acknowledgement even if its after years and in a book.
Galileo was the Prometheus of his time. An extraordinary mind, wit and perception. In the end he was punished for it. Very interesting book that recaptures the circumstances, the dynamics of that era. A book that makes one feel grateful for being born in our time. Thus, all the while that Galileo was inventing modern physics, teaching mathematics to princes, discovering new phenomena among the planets, publishing science books for the general public, and defending his bold theories against establishment enemies, he was also buying thread for Suor Luisa, choosing organ music for Mother Achillea, shipping gifts of food, and supplying his homegrown citrus fruits, wine, and rosemary leaves for the kitchen and apothecary at San Matteo.
Jan 07, Pallavi Gambhire rated it liked it Recommends it for: People interested in lives of great scientists, astronomy, historical non-fiction. I have been reading a lot of biographies lately something I had sworn, I would never have an interest in , and this one is unique because it primarily focuses on the relationship between Galileo and his daughter and is essentially a biography of both of them. Sobel presents a very vivid description of Galileo's life, his trials and tribu "Galileo's daughter" is the biography of the great philosopher and astronomer, with some loving letters by his daughter interspersed throughout the narrative.
Sobel presents a very vivid description of Galileo's life, his trials and tribulations, the consolations his daughter provided through his tough times and very often,a claustrophobic view of Maria Celeste's life as a cloistered nun. The letters by themselves aren't extremely interesting except for Suor Maria Celeste's acknowledgement of Galileo as "Most illustrious Father" or "Most beloved and illustrious Father"!
I mean how many of us refer to our dear dad this way anymore! They present the day to day banality of the convent life, her hardships, her constant demands for material and monetary support from her father, her resignation at not being as intelligent as her father and lauding his merits, while constantly asking for advice That is extremely modest of her, considering it was she who finished his final manuscripts for him.
While the letters brought a relatively unknown person to life, and showed Galileo as a loving father, they did break up the narrative often enough to annoy me after a certain point. Galileo placed his two young daughters at the San Mateo convent, where they devoted themselves to the lives of cloistered nuns and lived their lives in abject poverty, despite the loving financial and emotional support of their father. The older daughter took upon the name 'Maria Celeste' as an ode to her father's devotion to celestial objects and it is through her letters that we get a glimpse of a daughter's relationship with her famous father, and their loving support to each other.
Unfortunately for us,Galileo's replies to his daughter were never found. Therefore,what could have been a incredible dialogue between the two, is reduced to a disparate monologue of letters, in which a daughter keeps asking her father for financial help and in return provides him with love and unconditional support in the light of his run-ins with the Church. It made me think of and be thankful for the ease with which the world communicates now, and it was rather unnerving to think of the number of days or even weeks Galileo and Suor Maria Celeste must have waited to get their letters.
People keep in touch often and therefore have the liberty to shorten their communication! Frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength, anyone? In , a pope and a cardinal inquisitor reprimanded Galileo, warning him to curtail his forays into the supernal realms. The motions of the heavenly bodies, they said, having been touched upon in the Psalms, the Book of Joshua, and elsewhere in the Bible, were matters best left to the Holy Fathers of the Church.
Galileo obeyed their orders, silencing himself on the subject. For seven cautious years he turned his efforts to less perilous pursuits, such as harnessing his Jovian satellites in the service of navigation, to help sailors discover their longitude at sea.
He studied poetry and wrote literary criticism. Modifying his telescope, he developed a compound microscope. That summer a new pope ascended the throne of Saint Peter in Rome. Galileo knew the man personally—he had demonstrated his telescope to him and the two had taken the same side one night in a debate about floating bodies after a banquet at the Florentine court.
But instead she approved of his endeavors because she knew the depth of his faith. Theirs is not a tale of abuse or rejection or intentional stifling of abilities. Rather, it is a love story, a tragedy, and a mystery. Following the angry papal summons to Rome in , however, the letters rode on horseback some two hundred miles and were frequently delayed by quarantines imposed as the Black Plague spread death and dread across Italy. By the time she received the last rites, the letters she had gathered over her lifetime in the convent constituted the bulk of her earthly possessions.
In this fashion, the correspondence between father and daughter was long ago reduced to a monologue. Standing in now for all the thoughts he once expressed to her are only those he chanced to offer others about her. The historical importance of any paper signed by Galileo, not to mention the prices such articles have commanded for the past two centuries, leaves few conceivable places where whole packets of his letters could hide.
The middle finger of his right hand can be seen, encased in a gilded glass egg atop an inscribed marble pedestal at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence. Of Suor Maria Celeste, however, only her letters remain. The handwriting throughout is still legible, though the once-black ink has turned brown.
Several of the sheets are marred by tiny holes, torn, darkened by acid or mildew, smeared with spilled oil. Of those that are water-blurred, some obviously ventured through the rain, while others look more likely tear-stained, either during the writing or the reading of them. After nearly four hundred years, the red sealing wax still sticks to the folded corners of the paper.
They recolor the personality and conflict of a mythic figure, whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. For although science has soared beyond his quaint instruments, it is still caught in his struggle, still burdened by an impression of Galileo as a renegade who scoffed at the Bible and drew fire from a Church blind to reason.
This pervasive, divisive power of the name Galileo is what Pope John Paul II tried to tame in by reinvoking his torment so long after the fact. He remained a good Catholic who believed in the power of prayer and endeavored always to conform his duty as a scientist with the destiny of his soul.
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