Saturday, 28 April, 2001

Book Review: Galileo's Daughter

I've been reading the book Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel; the author of Longitude, which I mentioned on March 9.  The book is billed as "a historical memoir of science, faith, and love."  The book examines the life and work of of Galileo Galilei, weaving into the story many of the letters that his daughter sent to him from her convent throughout her life.  The book is almost a biography of Galileo, although very little is said about his childhood and there are some gaps in areas of his adult life.  More interesting, though, it its discussion of Galileo's discoveries and publications.  The most interesting (and disturbing) to me is the idea of science, especially in Italy, being subject  to the whim of the Church and the Holy Office of the Inquisition.  A person could be tortured and killed for holding beliefs or publishing information (true or not) contrary to the Church's official position.  Galileo's publication of his Dialogue, a thinly-veiled approval of Copernicus'heliocentric world view, almost cost him his life.  A 17th century scientist or philosopher had to tread very lightly indeed.  Galileo's Daughter is a well-researched and informative book written in a very engaging style.  Highly recommended.