It looks as if service might be intermittent this week – it’s enrolment-in-person week & in practice what this means is working with students on their study plans 8.30-5.00 (at least) & then doing whatever else didn’t get done during the day… So blogging has to take a bit of a back seat 🙁
But still had time for an excellent Cafe Scientifique last night. Michael Cree & I went over to Tauranga to talk about Galileo Galilei & Charles Darwin, & their respective contributions to our scientific understanding of the world around us. It was a great evening with a lot of questions & discussion (I love the sort of questions that really make you think!). And I found myself recommending yet another book – this time on Galileo. It’s Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter: a drama of science, faith and love (1999, Fourth Estate).
Galileo is hugely significant because of his contributions to science: not only was he a gifted astronomer (who made his own telescopes), but he’s often regarded as the father of modern science – he set European scientists down the path of experimentation & quantitative data-gathering. (This is not to downplay the significance of the work of Arab scientists, but this really hadn’t trickled down to the scientific community in Europe.)
But he was also a family man. Not something you hear about in science classes, but the tale of this side of Galileo’s life is also important, because it shows the ‘ordinary’ side of the man. The book’s about his both his science and the tender, loving relationship he had with his eldest daughter, Virginia (who was placed in a convent while still a child & took the name Sister Marie Celeste). The love shows through in statements like the one Galileo made in a letter to a colleague; he described his daughter as a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me.