Galileo and all the stars: A new biography: John L. Heilbron: Galileo. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, xiv+508pp, $34.95 HB, $24.95 PB [Book Review]

Metascience 23 (2):357-359 (2014)

Abstract

According to the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, 2009 was “a year for Galileo and all the stars.” The headline referred to the UN’s declaration, at Italian urging, of an international year of astronomy celebrating Galileo’s first use of the telescope. The Italians marked the event in epic fashion, including a mega-conference in Florence and many smaller affairs. What they did not do was produce a new biography. That was left to an Englishman, David Wootton, and an American, John Heilbron.Heilbron’s Galileo is a Florentine humanist, master rhetorician, fond of metaphor and analogy in place of causal analysis. Casting Galileo as a humanist is not new: that was Giorgio de Santillana’s view 50 years ago. Nor is bringing out Galileo’s passion for Orlando Furioso, except that Heilbron pulls serious implications out of it, especially Galileo’s inventiveness and strong preference for verisimilitude which led him to rely on rhetoric rather than geometry. Galileo’s specific liking for Ariosto is p ..

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