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Conversations with Galileo

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Member Reviews

This book is for people that know the name of Galileo Galilei and might remember some random facts but no details, who want to know more than is stated in his Wiki entry but doesn't want to read a full biography. So, for me actually!

I finally learned (and will hopefully remember) that Copernicus was the first one who stated that the earth moves (around itself and also around the sun), but Galileo was the one that made that hypothesis well-known. But the famous revokement of his theories don't feature in this book at all (did it happen at all??), neither does his quote "And yet it moves". Probably also an urban legend. Instead the Roman inquisition put Galileo under house arrest and of course he wasn't allowed to publish anything that states his theories concerning the planetary movements. But he could continue his other science projects.

For instance he also discovered that a heavy object fall with the same velocity as a light object. Until now I always thought that a heavy object would fall faster, but apparently that is not the case!
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Conversations with Galileo is a short interesting book. There isn't much in depth information, but a small overview.
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I really loved the format of this book. It starts with a short history of Galileo's life and then moves on to the much more interesting fictionalized dialogues with him - some of Galileo's words are actually taken from his works or letters, so it's real stuff he's said!

What's interesting though, is that it's not just about Galileo himself - it's also like a window into the life in his times - the social problems, the conventions, the atmosphere. For example, women could not marry if their families were poor because they couldn't pay their dowries, and so many were forced to go into convents because there was nowhere else to go. But not only the women - men with no means could also not marry. So it seemed preferable for a man to 'have a companion' - an illegal wife or lover and illegitimate children - if you didn't have the money to marry. In a world where the church could put scientists under house arrest or ban books for 'devilry', this marriage convention... Just seems so backwards. Humans are weird!

I also always thought that the famous inventors and scientists of the past didn't struggle - after all, they must've had all that time to invent things, clearly their life wasn't a 9 to 5 like many of ours! Right? But as it appears, Galileo hustled like mad! He really struggled with finances although he was famous and had a good income. He came up with so many side hustles you have no idea. Who would have thought!

This was definitely an interesting read - also short, fast and to the point. I enjoyed it.

I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of the ebook in exchange to my honest review. This has not affected my opinion.
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This is an incredibly informative and entertaining book based on one of the most important figures in history. The period during which Galileo lived was extremely turbulent and prescriptive which ultimately caused him to lose his freedom for something as crucial as enlightening the world on the movements of the earth!  The book is well structured and pitched at a level so that anyone can enjoy.  Having read this, I will look out for others in the series and more books covering this period in history.
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Interesting biography giving unique view of Galileo.  I learned many new things and enjoyed the book.  Book gives me a new perspective of Galieo.
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I was rather underwhelmed by Conversations With Galileo.  It’s not a bad insight into some of the man’s character and discoveries, but for me it had some pretty big flaws.

William Shea plainly knows a great deal about his subject and has a real enthusiasm for both Galileo and the times in which he lived.  The book is structured in a series of brief chapters, each with a brief introduction and then in the form of some rather open questions from Shea and Galileo’s supposed answers.  It’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t really come off for me, largely because Galileo’s voice is completely unconvincing.  He describes events from his life and some of his work in very understandable terms, but it’s all about as natural as the 123-metre spire stuff about Salisbury from those two Russian...er...gentlemen.  It’s stilted and rather awkward to read, and it’s not helped by a lack of focus in places.  For example, the plague from 1630-33 was a catastrophic and influential event in Galileo’s life, but in such a short book the amount of time devoted to the plague itself rather than its influence and effect on Galileo was a real distraction.

I don’t mean to be too critical, but I did find the book unsatisfactory.  Even the introduction by Dava Sobel (whose knowledge I respect greatly) was rather overblown for my taste.  I think this would have been better as a simple, brief explanation of the man and his work, which I think Shea would do very well.  The structure of imagined conversations didn’t do it for me and I can only give this a very qualified recommendation.

(My thanks to Watkins Publishing for and ARC via Netgalley.)
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