Book Review: Galileo

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Also in This Series

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Marco Polo
Marie Curie

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Galileo was one of the most important people in all of history. His scientific achievements are staggering and well-known; less well-known are his private struggles and his early life. This book, by Philip Steele and an entry in the National Geographic World Series Biographies series, discusses both, so the reader comes away with a much more well-rounded picture of Galileo and the world he lived—and struggled—in.

Readers who know only of Galileo the scientist might be pleasantly surprised to learn of the famous man's interest and ability in both music and medicine. And Galileo's tendency to be contentious can be traced directly to his famous father, who provided well for his family both in monetary terms and in life examples.

As with other books in this series, this one does an excellent job of placing Galileo's life and upbringing in the context of the religious and political struggles of the day. Galileo's Italy wasn't even Italy the country; rather, it was a collection of city-states that were seemingly warring with one another, with words or with swords. Galileo lived in two of the most famous, Pisa and Florence, and it is his successes in both city-states that make up the majority of the book.

Galileo was somewhat of a "man who lived at the right time," in that his curiousity about the nature of the heavens was peaking right about the time that a Dutchman named Hans Lippershey was perfecting his telescope. Galileo would soon modify this invention to his own devices, turn it skyward, and change the nature of cosmology debates forever.

With his announcements of moons around Jupiter, craters on the Moon, and spots on the Sun, Galileo upset the natural order as it had been handed down by classicists Aristotle and his "followers," Church leaders for centuries. Galileo's refusal to bow down to established teachings when he had contrary evidence seen with his own eyes eventually got him into trouble. And when we the readers get to this point in the book, we can almost see what's coming next, thanks to the author's providing us with the context beforehand.

Some of the accompanying illustrations are quite extraordinary, as is the depiction of Galileo's legacy. A helpful timeline scrolling across the bottom of every page helps keep readers focused on the bigger picture as well.

All in all, this is a classically well done biography, covering the known highlights of the famous scientist's life and adding details not always discussed to present a very human man dealing with very human struggles and very fantastic discoveries.

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