Saturday, 16 April 2011

Sobel, Dava “Galileo's Daughter"

Sobel, Dava “Galileo's Daughter: A Drama of Science, Faith and Love" - 2000

“Galileo Galilei is famous for many things: for his science (Einstein called him the 'father of modern physics'); for his flamboyant style (he wrote in Italian not Latin, enlivened texts with rough humour, argued loudly in staged debates) and for his harsh treatment by the Catholic Church. What's less well known are the details of his private life - a life that, as Dava Sobel points out in Galileo's Daughter, was just as complex as the scientist's public life. Galileo had three illegitimate children; the book's title refers to the oldest, Virginia, later Suor Maria Celeste (she took the name in acknowledgement of her father's fascination with the stars). Unable to marry because of her illegitimate status, Virginia entered a convent at 13 and maintained a lifelong correspondence with her father. Sobel has translated Virginia's surviving letters for the first time and, combining those letters, commentary, and gorgeous illustrations, she sets out in Galileo's Daughter to illuminate a different side of Galileo, the father deeply committed to his daughter and to her faith.”

A very interesting book. Although, we thought the title is not entirely correct since this book is more about Galileo himself than about his daughter.

However, the life Galileo led is portrayed very well. He was a brilliant mind - and so was his daughter. The book describes the time and the difficulties scientists had to deal with as well as the different circumstances in which people lived at the time. The choice women had was not great, well, almost non-existent. They could either marry or enter a convent. They had to deal with a lot of illnesses, including the plague. The inhabitants of the Franciscan convent had to endure a hard life, they almost starved themselves to death because of their poverty. They showed tremendous courage.

I liked this book very much because I love reading about people in different times. We agreed that most of us would never have picked up this book if it wasn't for the book club.

My favourite quote: “The Bible is about how one goes to Heaven - not how Heaven goes.” (page 65)

We discussed this in our book club in September 2006.

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