Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

By Dava Sobel

Synopsis: Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of his daughter Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has crafted a biography that dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishments of a mythic figure whose early-seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion-the man Albert Einstein called “the father of modern physics-indeed of modern science altogether.” It is also a stunning portrait of Galileo’s daughter, a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as “a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me.”

Moving between Galileo’s grand public life and Maria Celeste’s sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. During that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years’ War tipped fortunes across Europe, Galileo sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope. Filled with human drama and scientific adventure, Galileo’s Daughter is an unforgettable story.

Published: October, 1999 | ISBN-10: 0802779654

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I think it’s a tough read unless you are fascinated by the subject matter. I quite liked the insight into the relationship between Galileo and his daughter, especially as she was a cloistered nun so their interactions were via letters. It really helped to highlight Galileo’s conflict between his religious beliefs and what he knew via his scientific work and how to tread that line. I love Dava Sobel’s writing so did not find it a struggle. Great insight into the politics of the time. Galileo was under house arrest and under the protection of the Medici so was much more privileged in his incarceration for “heresy” than many people realise. – @ChocChilliMango

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