• by J. L. Heilbron
  • Narrated by Victor Bevine
  • 17 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.
Planned to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Starry Messenger, this is a major new biography of Galileo, a fresh and much more rounded view of the great scientist than found in earlier 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, and 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.
The title music in this audiobook is Ave Maris Stella by Claudio Monteverdi, which was published in the same year Galileo published Sidereus Nuncius (i.e. The Starry Messenger). Ave Maris Stella was performed using period instruments by the Green Mountain Project. We're especially proud to note that a member of the Green Mountain Project, Hank Heijink, also works at Audible!


What the Critics Say

"[Galileo] will no doubt become the standard, comprehensive biography." (The 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)
"By far the best general reconstruction of Galileo's private and intellectual llife available in the English language." (Paolo Galluzzi, Professor and Director, Museo Galileo, Florence)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Hard Going

I downloaded this hoping for an insightful biography of a famous man and some clue as to what exactly he had achieved to deserve such fame. All of that is here, but there is a great deal of detail on the various theories and ideas he proposed or discussed, and to be honest it sometimes read more like an A-Level textbook than a pleasureable and informative read. At various stages the text discusses his work on geometry, and frequent references are made to diagrams which, being an audio book, the listener cannot see. You then get a long dialogue telling you about A, B, C and the line G to H, and so on, none of which make any sense without the diagram in question, although frankly it would not make much more sense to me if I did have them. Some mention of Galileo's geometric work is fine as it is part of the man and his legacy, but great swathes of this kind of detail was too much for me and, I suspect, for most general readers.

On his astronomical work the book is on firmer ground, as it is with the difficulties he had with the vested interests of the Church. However here too the long reproductions of conversations he wrote to discuss philisophical ideas are hard going.

In short then this is rather too heavy to be a generally accessible story of the man's life and work, which is what I was looking for. If you want to get heavily into the detail then this is for you (only have a paper copy for the many diagrams to hand), but for those with a more casual interest in the history of natural science this might be a poor choice.
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- Dave

Thought-provoking listen

The down-side to this was the fact that equations and mathematical figures had to be listened to, which probably gave me an insight into the challenges visually impaired people experience in a talk where mathematics is being used. But the biography was lyrically crafted, rendering the assiduous scholarship flow smoothly not only through the worlds of astronomy, mathematics and theology that Galileo's life coursed through and redefined, but also his music, poetry and literary taste including his fascinating (if crackpot) analyses of Dante's circles of hell. This is a scholarly biography, but it reads, and is read, flowingly, making it an engaging and rewarding listening experience.
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- S

Book Details

  • Release Date: 15-02-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios