The Heretic's Daughter

Dava Sobel describes the correspondence to Galileo Galilei from his daughter, Virginia, who was a nun in the Convent of San Matteo, near Florence. Virginia, who took the religious name Maria Celeste, was a kind of apothecary in her convent, and she did her best to provide elixirs and pills to protect Galileo from the plague, along with weekly letters of news and encouragement. She was Galileo's favorite child (of three) and her support was very important to him as he challenged the church to which she had pledged herself. Her father, despite his opposition to the church's position on astronomy that led to the condemnation of his books and his house arrest for the last years of his life, remained a faithful Catholic to the end. The devotion of Maria Celeste to her father shines through these messages, and one can imagine the letters that Galileo must have been writing. The letters do not as much address the swirling scientific controversy as they do the personal lives of daughter and father in a turbulent time.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Dava Sobel

Publication Date: 
Monday, September 13, 1999