Synopses & Reviews
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--the craters of the moon, the satellites of Jupiter--Galileo dramatically challenged our idea of the perfection of the heavens and the centrality of the Earth in the universe. Indeed, the appearance of the little book is regarded as one of the great moments in the history of science.
Here is a major new biography of Galileo, a fresh and much more rounded view of the great scientist than found in previous works. Unlike previous biographers, Heilbron shows us that Galileo was far more than a mathematician: he was deeply knowledgeable in the arts, an expert on the epic poet Ariosto, a fine lutenist. More important, Heilbron notes that years of reading the poets and experimenting with literary forms were not mere sidebars--they enabled Galileo to write clearly and plausibly about the most implausible things. Indeed, Galileo changed the world not simply because he revolutionized astronomy, but because he conveyed his discoveries so clearly and crisply that they could not be avoided or denied. If ever a discoverer was perfectly prepared to make and exploit his discovery, it was the dexterous humanist Galileo aiming his first telescope at the sky.
In Galileo, John Heilbron captures not only the great scientist, but also the creative, artistic younger man who would ultimately become the champion of Copernicus, the bête-noire of the Jesuits, and the best-known of all martyrs to academic freedom.
"Will no doubt become the standard, comprehensive biography."
--New York Times Book Review
"A masterpiece...It far surpasses all previous biographies of Galileo. Impeccable scholarship."
--Nick Jardine, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Sciences, Cambridge University
"Heilbron's biography is by far the richest account yet produced in English."
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 the Author
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
Table of Contents
1. A Florentine Education
2. A Tuscan Archimedes
3. Life in the Serenissima
4. Galilean Science
5. Calculated Risks
6. Miscalculated Risks
8. End Games