Galileo's muse : Renaissance mathematics and the arts /
Mark A. Peterson.
Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London, England : Harvard University Press, 2011.
vi, 336 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
0674059727 (hbk. : alk. paper), 9780674059726 (hbk. : alk. paper)
More Details
Cambridge, Massachusetts ; London, England : Harvard University Press, 2011.
0674059727 (hbk. : alk. paper)
9780674059726 (hbk. : alk. paper)
contents note
Galileo, humanist -- The classical legacy -- Poetry -- The plan of heaven -- The vision of God -- Painting -- The power of the lines -- The skin of the lion -- Music -- The Orphic mystery -- Kepler and the music of the spheres -- Architecture -- Figure and form -- The dimensions of hell -- Mathematics old and new -- Transforming mathematics -- The oration.
catalogue key
Gift to Victoria University Library. Mayer, Thomas F. 2015/10/05.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-05-01:
Peterson (Mount Holyoke College) provides a wide review of Renaissance mathematics, including its Hellenistic roots, as he explores the origins of modern science. He dips into the uses of mathematics in art, architecture, music, and even poetry. His analysis of Dante's Divine Comedy is especially revealing, given the important role that a talk on the dimensions of hell played in the young Galileo's career advancement. Among other areas, Peterson traces Galileo's interest in mathematics in artistic perspective and his father's musical experiments. He examines the relation of Kepler to Galileo in light of their different perspectives on science. The book leads to an argument that Galileo was the true author of Oratio de Mathematicae laudibus (attributed to his student in 1627), and that the Copernican controversy is overstated. Galileo's education in history, literature, and art were not part of a normal mathematician's education, yet his education omitted much of the usual philosophical studies. The author concludes that Galileo's true legacy was the creation of a humanistic view and use of mathematics. This engaging book provides copious notes for the scholar interested in either Galileo or mathematics across the curriculum. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates and general readers. M.-K. Hemenway University of Texas at Austin
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-12-01:
Where did Galileo come from? Why was he uniquely willing to relate mathematics to the real world? These are the questions Peterson (physics & mathematics, Mount Holyoke Coll.) asks. He reveals the answers in a tour of Galileo's education and the heritage of Renaissance mathematics and art. Peterson ends by laying out how Galileo helped move mathematics beyond philosophy,- making it a tool for precise theorizing about imprecise, real-world data. This book covers well-worn ground in the history of science; scholars have written much about Galileo's connection to the arts and about the complex relationships among art, math, and science in the early modern period. (One need only mention the works of Pamela O. Long, David Freedberg, and others.)- In addition, for a historian of science, Peterson perhaps overemphasizes Galileo's similarity with present-day scientists and overexplains how he rose above the shortcomings of his contemporaries. -VERDICT Suitable for general readers, this book is not for advanced scholars of the history of science.-Jon Bodnar, Emory Univ., Atlanta (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review Quotes
Galileo's Muse is a brilliant study that lucidly explains the mathematics central to innovations in the Renaissance arts and sciences. Peterson's expertise as a mathematician and physicist gives this book a level of detail and insight that will offer much to historians of art, science, literature alike.
Peterson's book portrays Galileo in a wonderfully fresh perspective. Over several decades I have steeped myself in Galileo biographies, and it's really rare to find an account as intriguing as this one.
Galileo's Muse explores a wealth of intriguing connections between the arts and the birth of modern science, presented with thought and verve. Mark Peterson's excitement shines through on every page
Mark A. Peterson takes us on a lively journey...Galileo's Muse is a welcome addition to the growing literature on art and science in the early modern period.
Peterson advances the hypothesis that it was the interplay of mathematics in the arts, not the philosophically-bent sciences of the day that evolved into our modern sciences.
Peterson believes there is a fresh and important story to tell about Galileo's roots in Renaissance humanism. He tells that story well and makes the fascinating argument that Galileo's interest in applied geometry arose not from the study of orthodox philosophy and mathematics but from his interest in the application of geometry to poetry, painting, music and architecture. He makes this case well.
This item was reviewed in:
PW Annex Reviews, September 2011
Library Journal, December 2011
The Australian, December 2011
Choice, May 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Bowker Data Service Summary
In this study of the life and thought of Galileo, Mark Peterson argues that it was the mathematics of Renaissance arts, not Renaissance sciences, that became modern science. He writes that the recovery of classical science owes much to the Renaissance artists who first turned to Greek sources for inspiration and instruction.
Main Description
Mark Peterson makes an extraordinary claim in this fascinating book focused around the life and thought of Galileo: it was the mathematics of Renaissance arts, not Renaissance sciences, that became modern science. Galileo's Muse argues that painters, poets, musicians, and architects brought about a scientific revolution that eluded the philosopher-scientists of the day, steeped as they were in a medieval cosmos and its underlying philosophy. According to Peterson, the recovery of classical science owes much to the Renaissance artists who first turned to Greek sources for inspiration and instruction. Chapters devoted to their insights into mathematics, ranging from perspective in painting to tuning in music, are interspersed with chapters about Galileo's own life and work. Himself an artist turned scientist and an avid student of Hellenistic culture, Galileo pulled together the many threads of his artistic and classical education in designing unprecedented experiments to unlock the secrets of nature. In the last chapter, Peterson draws our attention to the Oratio de Mathematicae laudibus of 1627, delivered by one of Galileo's students. This document, Peterson argues, was penned in part by Galileo himself, as an expression of his understanding of the universality of mathematics in art and nature. It is "entirely Galilean in so many details that even if it is derivative, it must represent his thought," Peterson writes. An intellectual adventure, Galileo’s Muse offers surprising ideas that will capture the imagination of anyone-scientist, mathematician, history buff, lover of literature, or artist-who cares about the humanistic roots of modern science.

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