Biographies & Memoirs

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

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

Son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and 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 and forced to spend his last years under house arrest.

Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and 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 through his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then.

Part I: To Florence

Chapter 1: She who was so precious to you

Chapter 2: This grand book the universe

Chapter 3: Bright stars speak of your virtues

Chapter 4: To have the truth seen and recognized

Chapter 5: In the very face of the sun

Chapter 6: Observant executrix of God’s commands

Chapter 7: The malice of my persecutors

Chapter 8: Conjecture here among shadous

Part II: On Bellosguardo

Chapter 9: How our father is favored

Chapter 10: To busy myself in your service

Chapter 11: What we require above all else

Chapter 12: Because of our zeal

Chapter 13: Through my memory of their eloquence

Chapter 14: A small and trifling body

Chapter 15: On the right path, by the grace of God

Chapter 16: The tempest of our many torments

Part III: In Rome

Chapter 17: While seeking to immortalige your fame

Chapter 18: Since the lord chastises us with these whips

Chapter 19: The hope of having you always near

Chapter 20: That I should be begged to publish such a work

Part IV: In Care of the Tuscan Embassy, Villa Medici, Rome

Chapter 21: How anxiously I live, awaiting word from you

Chapter 22: In the chambers of the Holy office of the Inquisition

Chapter 23: Vainglorious ambition, pure ignorance, and inadvertence

Chapter 24: Faith vested in the miraculous Madonna of Impruneta

Chapter 25: Judgment passed on your book and your person

Part V: At Siena

Chapter 26: Not knowing how to refuse him the keys

Chapter 27: Terrible destruction on the feast of San Lorenzo

Chapter 28: Recitation of the penitential psalms

Chapter 29: The book of life, or, A prophet accepted in his own land

Part VI: From Arcetri

Chapter 30: My soul and its longing

Chapter 31: Until I have this from your lips

Chapter 32: As I struggle to understand

Chapter 33: The memory of the sweetnesses

In Galileo’s Time

Florentine Weights, Measures, Currency



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