Galileo's Daughter Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Galileo's Daughter

      Sobel's book is concerned with the whole of Galileo's life, but especially with the relationship between the scientist and his daughter, Virginia. Her letters to him are at the center of the work. Sobel translates these letters herself and includes the complete text of many of them.
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Named Virginia at birth, she was one of three children born out of wedlock to Galileo and Marina Gamba.   She adopted the name Maria Celeste after she took her vows with the Order of St. Clare. Galileo had placed her and her younger sister in the Convent of San Matteo as young children, most probably because their illegitimate birth and his own modest means would have made marriage unlikely for them. In the end both girls took their vows. Her letters contain both everyday minutiae, sewing projects and candy making, as well advice on dealing with his trials and problems.

   The book deals with the scientist's theories of the solar system, his disoveries about telescopes and his problems with the church over his writings.

The review of this Book prepared by Jack Goodstein

This is the story of Galileo's life with actual historical record commentary from Vatican documents and the letters written by Galileo's daughter in a convent, the nun Sister Maria Celeste. We follow the development of Galileo's ideas and writings and how they were thwarted. We see Galileo support his children, especially this daughter, who supports him in return and comments on everything from the planets' revolution around the sun to what his housesitter should do with his wine while he's away at trial in Rome.
The review of this Book prepared by Linda Napikoski

Reading much like a novel, “Galileo's Daugher” is a riveting biography of the famed 17th century Italian scientist (branded heretic by the Church!). Using some 100 letters as the basis of this accounting, Dava Sobel (who also authored the historical “Longitude”) has created a work that is more than just a dissertation on Galileo; she “novelizes” it to the point that lay readers will find it an intense, rapt study of personalities, anxieties, love, and 17th century problems. It is NOT dull reading. These letters were written by Galileo's elder daughter Suor Marie Celeste (whom he had placed in a convent to become a nun) and with Sobel's blending of what she thinks may have happened (read Barbara Tuchman for more of this type of writing!), we have a fascinating story line.

The review of this Book prepared by Bill Hobbs

Chapter Analysis of Galileo's Daughter

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   scientist/inventor Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   scientist Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   Italian


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   Italy Century:    -   17th century

Writing Style

Pictures/Illustrations?    -   More 6-10 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Dava Sobel Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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