Inspired by long fascination with Galileo & the surviving letters of his daughter, a cloistered nun, Sobel has written a biography of the one Einstein called "the father of modern physics--indeed of modern science altogether." Galileo's Daughter presents a portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by Galileo as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness & most tenderly attached to me."
Son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) tried at 1st to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Tho he never left Italy, his inventions & discoveries were heralded round the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens & to reinforce the argument that the Earth moves round the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy & forced to spend his last years under house arrest.
Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, & sensibility, & by virtue of such qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was 13 when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength thru his most productive & tumultuous years. Her presence, thru letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian & woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then.
Galileo's Daughter dramatically recolors the personality & accomplishment of a mythic figure whose 17th-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science & religion. Moving between Galileo's grand public life & Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis & the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. In that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation & the 30 Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, one man sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed thru a telescope.
With all the drama & scientific adventure that distinguished Dava Sobel's previous book Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story.