Cover: Galileo’s Glassworks: The Telescope and the Mirror, from Harvard University PressCover: Galileo’s Glassworks in HARDCOVER

Galileo’s Glassworks

The Telescope and the Mirror

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674026674

Publication Date: 01/31/2008


240 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

3 halftones, 2 lines


Reeves’s splendid account is a cultural and social history that sets Galileo’s telescope in the rich landscape of optical science from the Middle Ages to the modern period.—Simon Mitton, The Times Higher Education Supplement

Fascinating… Eileen Reeves shows just how tangled with myth and legend the history of the telescope, and Galileo’s pioneering use of it, actually was… Ms. Reeves recounts this complicated history with great flair. She is more interested in the missteps and the stumbles that accompanied momentous discoveries than in their scientific significance, and rightly so. The tale of Galileo’s telescope is, as it turns out, an intensely human one. Sometimes, amid the intrigue and the campaigns of slander and distortion which surrounded Galileo’s discoveries, it seems as if the chief obstacle to a clear-sighted gaze at the heavens lay not in better optics but in piercing dense clouds of misconception. As Ms. Reeves shows, Galileo was no isolated genius; he built on the scattered findings of his predecessors. To certain contemporaries, he appeared as a modern Prometheus, but he was also a shrewd operator, as ambitious as he was inquisitive. There was something both sublime and stubborn in his nosiness, yet in the end it led him to the stars.—Eric Ormsby, The New York Sun

Scattered with intriguing nuggets.Kirkus Reviews

In Galileo’s time, [Reeves] reports, many scientists and amateurs were experimenting with optics and purloining each other’s results in a complex game of cross-national thievery. Reeves’s study is a skillful interpretative blend of legend, history and science about lenses, mirrors and their conjoining in the telescope.Publishers Weekly

Eileen Reeves’s book provides us with a significant effort for a better understanding of the cultural features involved in the making of the telescope. Highly original and innovative, Galileo’s Glassworks paves the way for further inquiries that will deepen our knowledge of the relationship between well-established cultural models and technological innovations.—Michele Camerota, Professor of the History of Science, University of Cagliari

The telescope was ‘invented’ in 1608. But what about the events leading up to it? Galileo and his contemporaries were searching for a device with which ‘from an incredible distance we might read the smallest letters.’ Eileen Reeves tells a story of ‘cultural optics’: magical mirrors and political intrigue, and investigators looking for magnifying power in all the wrong places, while the solution lay in the humble spectacle lenses on their noses. An excellent read, and an important contribution to the history of science.—Albert van Helden, Lynette S. Autrey Professor of History, Rice University

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