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An expert life of a giant of science.

A fresh biography of Galileo (1564-1642).

Books on Galileo are not scarce, but the latest from astrophysicist Livio features the author’s unique insights as well as his concern about the current fashion for giving ideology priority over truth. Livio rocks no boats by describing Galileo as history’s first scientist. The Greeks believed that understanding the universe required thinking; they despised research because human senses are imperfect. In contrast, Galileo wondered about natural phenomenon, observed carefully, performed experiments (in a time before thermometers, stopwatches, and even minute hands), meticulously recorded the results, and—most importantly—publicized them widely in lectures, letters, and books. For 40 years, he was the most famous scientist in Europe, a position he maintained even after his disastrous conflict with the church, after which he spent his final decade under house arrest. Most readers know that the Inquisition condemned Galileo for claiming that the sun did not revolve around the Earth. That the biblical passage describing Joshua stopping the sun (emphasized by prosecutors) proved him wrong seems wacky, but Livio points to several current beliefs that are no improvement. The author’s criticism of science denial and a long section marshaling evidence in favor of climate change and evolution will neither enlighten science-minded readers nor persuade those who disagree. Livio is not alone in believing that people with a deeply held false belief will change their minds if presented with facts. However, research studies invariably show that they won’t. The author truly excels in his explanations of Galileo’s findings as well as his descriptions of the culture of Renaissance Italy. Popular histories extol the scientist’s use of the just invented telescope to galvanize Europe with astronomical discoveries—the moons of Jupiter, phases of Venus, and the mountains on Earth’s moon—but Livio gives equal time to his revelations of the laws of motion, which marked the birth of modern physics.

An expert life of a giant of science.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9473-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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