Dava Sobel

Galileo’s Daughter Translated from the English by Christian Cler. Publication date : March 1, 2001

This is a most unusual biography about Galileo’s daughter.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was regarded by Albert Einstein not only as the father of modern physics but as the father of all modern science. The son of a musician, Galileo tried to become a monk before embarking on the studies that would make him one of the greatest scientists of his time. Although he never left Italy, his discoveries and inventions became known world-wide. After he invented the telescope, he was able to make significant discoveries supporting the Copernican theory that the earth went around the sun. Because of his views, he was accused of heresy by the Roman Inquisition and held under house arrest. Galileo had three illegitimate children. The eldest, Virginia, mirrored Galileo’s own brilliance, industry and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante. When she was thirteen, Galileo placed her in a convent near Florence. When Virginia professed her nun’s vows, she took the name Sister Maria Celeste. Her devotion to her father was of great support to him during the most creative and difficult years of his life. Their correspondence, reproduced throughout the book, reveals their intense relationship, based on tender attachment and intellectual stimulation. The little-known life of Maria Celeste gives a human dimension to one of the major seventeenth-century scientists. His struggle with the Church is a lasting symbol of the conflict between science and religion. Galileo’s Daughter offers a powerful account of papal Rome and of Florentine intellectual life during the time of the Medicis. Against the backdrop of the plague that was sweeping Europe and the devastation caused by the Thirty Years’ War, the author depicts a key moment in history, when humanity’s vision of its place in the universe was undergoing a major upheaval.

Dava Sobel is a writer who lives in New York. She is the author of Longitude, an international best-seller described as “a gem” in the New York Times.