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  • Writer's pictureJoël Tibbits

Galileo's Eye

At present, I am reading "Galileo's Daughter" by Dava Sobel, and rereading "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn.

Sobel's biography of Galileo's life through his daughter's letters vividly depicts the emotional and pragmatic elements of the astronomer's life, while Kuhn's academic deconstruction and analysis of the science paradigm sheds light on how scientific revolutions occur through history.

Everyday, I read a few pages of each book in tandem; it is a fascinating pairing.

Only the other day, I read these two paragraphs consecutively:

FIrst from Sobel, "Thus, all the while that Galileo was inventing modern physics, teaching mathematics to princes, discovering new phenomena among the planets, publishing science books for the general public, and defending his bold theories against establishment enemies, he was also buying thread for Suor Luisa (a nun in his daughter's convent), choosing organ music for Mother Achillea, shipping gifts of food, and supplying his homegrown citrus fruits, wine, and rosemary leaves for the kitchen and apothecary at San Matteo (his daughter's convent)."

Then, from Kuhn I read, "Textbooks thus begin by truncating the scientist's sense of his discipline's history and then proceed to supply a substitute for what they have eliminated. Characteristically, textbooks of science contain just a bit of history, either in an introductory chapter or, more often, in scattered references to the great heroes of an earlier age. From such references both students and professionals come to feel like participants in a long standing tradition. Yet the textbook derived tradition in which scientists come to sense their participation is one that, in fact, never existed."

Galileo's eye saw much more than the moons of Jupiter and the spots of the sun, it saw a life being lived.

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