Galileo by John Heilbron

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Just over four hundred years ago, in 1610, Galileo published the Siderius nuncius, or Starry Messenger, a 'hurried little masterpiece' in John Heilbron's words. Presenting to the world his remarkable observations using the recently invented telescope - of the craters of the moon, and the satellites of Jupiter, observations that forced changes to perceptions of the perfection of the heavens and the centrality of the Earth - the appearance of the little book is regarded as
one of the greatest moments in the history of science. It was also a point of change in the life of Galileo himself, propelling him from professor to prophet.

But this is not the biography of a mathematician. Certainly he spent the first half of his career as a professor of mathematics and has been called 'the divine mathematician'. Yet he was no more (or less) a mathematician than he was a musician, artist, writer, philosopher, or gadgeteer. This fresh lively new biography of the 'father of science' paints a rounded picture of Galileo, and places him firmly within the rich texture of late Renaissance Florence, Pisa, and Padua, amid debates on the
merits of Ariosto and Tasso, and the geometry of Dante's Inferno - debates in which the young Galileo played an active role.

Galileo's character and career followed complex paths, moving from the creative but cautious humanist professor to a 'knight errant, quixotic and fearless', with increasing enemies, and leading ultimately and inevitably to a clash with a pope who was a former friend.

About John Heilbron

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John Heilbron is Professor of History and Vice Chancellor Emeritus of the University of California at Berkeley. One of the most distinguished scholars on the Scientific Revolution, he is the author of The Sun in the Church (a New York Times Notable Book) and The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science.
Published October 14, 2010 by OUP Oxford. 528 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Science & Math, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Galileo

New York Journal of Books

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For the past four hundred years, Galileo, Siderius nuncius, and Galileo’s subsequent trial at the Inquisition have been used in many contexts to tell many types of stories.

Dec 01 2010 | Read Full Review of Galileo

Literary Review

It is little surprise to find that Heilbron has no polemical axe to grind with any of these subjects, recounting the difficulty of separating Galileo's claims to experimental science from fact, casually mentioning that by 1597 'Galileo was a Copernican of at least two years' standing', and reiter...

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BBC History Magazine

To understand Galileo, writes Heilbron, we have to reject any notion that he behaved like a modern scientist.

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