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A CIE Introduction to the Galileo Texts
Forget for a moment everything you think you know about the universe and imagine that you are an ancient Israelite or Greek or Hindu looking up at the sky. (People used to do this before streetlights and television.) If you did, you would notice the following. During the day, a really bright, hot light (the Sun) rises in the east and sets in the west. This is hard to miss. When the Sun sets in the west each evening, a lot of tiny lights, no longer blotted out by its glare, appear in the sky, plus sometimes a brighter light – the Moon. These lights also rise in the east and set in the west. In fact, all the lights in the sky, bright and dim, move from east to west and then reappear in the east to return to (almost) their original position in the course of a day and a night. But not quite their original position. At the same time each night the lights are slightly farther to the west such that, over the course of a year, they have moved across the sky and have returned to their original position. Thus, there are two east-to-west cycles: one that occurs over a single day and a night, another that takes about a year. Most of the tiny lights do not change position with respect to one another as they move through their daily and yearly cycles.1 2 We’ll call these the “fixed stars” or “stars” for short. But seven lights - the Sun, the Moon, and five dimmer ones – do not move in lockstep with the stars but instead each have their own cycle of movement. We’ll call these planets (from the Greek planētēs, for “wanderer”). These planets do other odd things. One – the Moon – goes through phases. (So do Mercury and Venus but, lacking a telescope, you would not know this.) Others grow brighter and then dimmer over the course of years, unlike the constant intensity of the fixed stars. Two, Mercury and Venus, never cross the sky but are only seen briefly in the west after dusk or in the east before dawn. Three others, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, cross the sky from east to west against a band of fixed stars – the constellations of the Zodiac – but move more slowly westward than do these stars, such that they shift relatively eastward against the background of the zodiac. Except, to make things worse, sometimes they turn around and move westward relative to the zodiac (socalled “retrograde motion”) before resuming their eastward movement. How would you explain all this? One answer could be: “Who cares?” And if you were busy trying to stay alive by herding sheep or growing wheat, this might be your answer. But not necessarily. Each of the CIE texts you have read thus far begins with a description of the creation or the nature of the universe, and then links that description to lessons of right and wrong behavior, which suggests that people have cared about these questions and considered them highly relevant to their lives on Earth. While other beasts, heads bent, stared at wild earth, The new creation gazed into blue sky; - Ovid, p. 33
This allows us to name fixed patterns of stars, known as “constellations.” Examples include Orion (from the ancient Greeks), The Great Bear (Greek and Native American), and Bloodnut the Flatuent (Ogre). 2 In fact, they do change position relative to one other, but this change is very slow to our eyes, and one would have to live – or keep careful records – for tens of thousands of years to notice.
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For the Greeks, the movement of the stars and the planets presented a fascinating problem. Beginning in the 7th Century BCE, a school of Greek philosophers began to look at the universe as a rational place that follows universal, natural laws that humans can decipher and understand. In short, these philosophers were scientists (and vice-versa). Although Socrates (470-399 BCE) bridled at being labeled a scientist himself (Apology, p. 66) – caring more for the question “How Should We Live?” than the question “What is the Universe?” – he nevertheless embraced the essential beliefs of science: that truths exist and that they can be approached (if not reached) via rational, skeptical inquiry. Socrates’ student, Plato (427-347 BCE), challenged his own students with the task of proposing a unifying explanation for the celestial observations listed above. Plato taught that absolute truths exist and that mathematics is the key to finding them. Since reliance on mathematics encouraged a view of the universe as ordered and harmonious, Plato’s “homework problem” for his students was to find a mathematical explanation for the oddities of planetary motion, particularly retrograde motion, that would make them part of an ordered, harmonious universe. 3 We asked you at the beginning of this section to pretend to forget everything you know about the universe. But scientists never work in such an intellectual vacuum. They always bring to a problem a set of acknowledged and unacknowledged assumptions and preconceptions (like the belief that the universe is rational and potentially understandable) that guide and constrain their thinking. Philosophers of Plato’s era assumed the following:4 that the earth (as any damn fool can see) is the motionless center of the universe; that the heavens are perfect and unchanging, unlike the corrupt and mutable Earth; that the stars and planets move in perfectly circular orbits at a uniform speed because such motion brings one back cyclically to the starting point and therefore is unchanging; that circles, and their three-dimensional equivalents, spheres, are the most perfect objects because they have the minimal possible circumference (surface area, in the case of spheres) for an object of their size. And they had observations to bolster these assumptions: The Earth is clearly different from the heavens. It is an immense, non-luminous sphere of mud and rock (the Greeks knew that the Earth was a sphere and had estimated its diameter within 1% of the correct value5) that undergoes constant change and destruction. The bodies in the heavens, in contrast, are luminous and apparently unchanging. The Earth is clearly stationary. Air, clouds, birds, and other things unattached to the ground are not left behind as they would be if it was spinning. The strong western wind (an understatement – it would be 788 mph!6) that would blow if the Earth were spinning from east to west is absent. Nor do objects falling from the top of a tower fall away from its base, as would be predicted if the tower, attached to the spinning Earth, changed position as they fell. Nor are items loosely attached to the Earth, like rocks and people, hurled off into space, as would be predicted if it were spinning rapidly.7
3 4 5 6

7

History and Philosophy of Western Astronomy, in Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes (www.astronomynotes.com) The Old Astronomy, Univ. of Tennessee Astronomy 161 (http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/oldastronomy.html) Calculation made by Eratosthenes in 200 BCE. (http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/cosmic/earth_info.html) The rotational speed of the Earth at the latitude (38oN) of Athens is [1000 mph] x [cos 38] = 788 mph.. (http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970401c.html) History and Philosophy of Western Astronomy

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For example, recall the beginning of the film Troy, when Achilles leapt into the air to stab a Goliath-like giant in the neck. Assuming that the Earth spins at 788 mph [1156 ft/sec] and that Achilles spent 0.5 seconds in the air before coming down, his intended victim would have moved 578 feet past him and Achilles would have landed in the midst of the opposing army, if not beyond it. So, clearly, the Earth does not spin on its axis. If the Earth were to orbit the Sun, it would change its position in space and thus with respect to the fixed stars, causing them to appear to shift their places in the sky relative to one another. Orion, for example, would look like a hunter during the winter, like a mushroom (or whatever) in summer, and revert to a hunter the next winter. But, as already noted, the stars do not change their relative positions. Although Plato assigned his students the task of finding a mathematical model to explain planetary motion, he never expected such a model to actually describe the real universe. Believing that an infinite number of theories can be constructed to account for a particular set of observations, he argued that we can never know which is actually correct. Instead, he viewed such models as “instrumental,” that is, as devices that could predict planetary motions but not as actual descriptions of nature.8 Plato’s student, Aristotle (384-322 BCE), however, thought it possible to identify the one model that described how the cosmos actually worked, that is a “realistic” model of the sort that modern scientists seek. His model, developed by another of Plato’s students, Eudoxus, saw the Earth enclosed in layers of concentric crystalline spheres, each housing an individual planet, with the stars placed on a outer sphere, all within an outermost sphere under the control of the "Prime Mover." The Prime Mover caused this sphere to rotate at a constant velocity, which then caused each of the interior spheres to rotate. In Aristotle’s view, an object moves only when a force is continuously pushing it; hence the need for a “prime mover” (whatever or whoever that was) that continuously imparted a force to move the spheres that held the planets.
Sphere of The Prime Mover Sphere of Fixed Stars Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Moon Earth

Epicycle

Planet

Earth

Aristotle’s geocentric model of the Universe
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By giving each of the spheres its own motion this model can account for many of the celestial observations listed above – the daily and annual cycles of east-to-west movement, the unique west-to-east migrations of the planets against the zodiac – while remaining true to the required assumptions of constant, circular motion. But Aristotle’s geocentric (Earth-centered) spheres cannot alone explain the other oddities of the planets, such as their changes in luminosity or their retrograde motion. The ingenious solution to this problem – one which preserved the assumption of constant, circular motion – was that of epicycles, small circles attached to the concentric spheres. The planets, attached to the epicycles, circled around a point on the spheres, and that point was carried by the sphere around the Earth. Since the planets were now each circling a point on their respective spheres, rather than lodged on the sphere itself, they would sometimes be closer to Earth (and thus appear brighter) than at other times, and they would sometimes reverse their apparent direction of travel, all the while adhering to the rule of constant, circular motion.9 Even this ingenious device failed to fully explain all the permutations of the planets, so epicycles were piled upon epicycles, culminating in the elaborate cosmology of Ptolemy (85165 CE). By this time the model was so complex that even Ptolemy did not defend it as representing reality but returned to Plato’s view that the spheres and epicycles were useful mathematical fictions. When medieval Europe rediscovered Greek philosophy and began the great task of incorporating it into Christianity, Aristotle’s Prime Mover became God and the sphere of the Prime Mover the Christian Heaven. Among the greatest of these synthesizers was Dante (1265-1321 CE), who placed Aristotle in his Inferno (albeit in the choicest part) and whose concentric circles in Hell are an infernal mirror of Aristotle’s crystalline spheres in the heavens. Here the poet describes what for him and his fellow medievals was the structure of the cosmos:
… according to [Ptolemy] and according to the received opinion in astrology and in philosophy since the time those movements were first perceived, there are nine moving heavens; and their position is manifest and determined by the art called optics, and by arithmetic and geometry, as is perceived by the senses and by reason, and by other demonstrations to the senses. Thus during an eclipse of the Sun it appears to our senses that the Moon lies below the Sun, and this is also the testimony of Aristotle who with his own eyes (as he tells us in the second book of Heaven and the World) saw the Moon, half-full, pass below Mars with her dark side forward, and Mars remain hidden till it reappeared from the other, bright side of the Moon, which was facing west. The order of their position is as follows.10 The first in number is the one in which the Moon resides; the second is the one in which Mercury resides; the third is the one in which Venus resides; the fourth is the one in which the Sun resides; the fifth is that of Mars; the sixth is that of Jupiter; the seventh is that of Saturn; the eighth is that of the Stars; the ninth is the one which is not perceptible to the senses except for the movement mentioned above, and which many call the Crystalline (that is to say, the diaphanous or completely transparent) Heaven. Moreover, outside all of these the Catholics place the Empyrean Heaven, which is to say, the "heaven of flame," or "luminous heaven"; and they hold it to be motionless because it has in itself, with
9

10

The Old Astronomy, Univ. of Tennessee Astronomy 161 (http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/oldastronomy.html) The order of the spheres discussed here reappears in Dante’s Paradiso.

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respect to each of its parts, that which its matter desires. This is the reason why the Primum Mobile has the swiftest movement; for because of the most fervent desire that each part of the ninth heaven has to be conjoined with every part of that divinest, tranquil heaven, to which it is contiguous, it revolves beneath it with such desire that its velocity is almost incomprehensible. Stillness and peace are the qualities of the place of that Supreme Deity which alone completely beholds itself. This is the place of the blessed spirits, according to the will of the Holy Church, which cannot lie .. the supreme edifice of the universe in which all the world is enclosed and beyond which there is nothing; it is not itself in space but was formed solely in the Primal Mind, which the Greeks call Protonoe. This is that magnificence of which the Psalmist spoke when he says to God: "Your magnificence is exalted above the heavens."11 So, to sum up what has been said, it is apparent that there are ten heavens of which the heaven of Venus is the third… On the outer edge of this [third] circle … there is a small sphere which revolves by itself in that heaven, whose circle the astrologers call an epicycle.12

Aristotle’s Sphere of the Prime Mover, which was responsible for the motion of the spheres, now lies just inside Heaven, the dwelling of God, and the spheres are moved by Angels:
Now that … it has been shown what this third heaven is … it remains to show who they are who move it. And so we must first know that its movers are substances separate from matter, namely Intelligences, which the common people call Angels.13

For a medieval European, the order of the cosmos was a religious as well as a scientific issue, and to challenge one was to potentially challenge the other. This is what began to happen during the Renaissance. When Montaigne (1533-1592 CE) cast his mind’s eye outward from his tower in Bordeaux, it took in a larger world than the one Dante knew, one that stretched from China to Brazil and included a host of lands and peoples new to Europeans. As the world grew larger, so did conceptions of the cosmos. The cosmos had started out small, with the Earth a flat disk and the sky a dome not far overhead. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus believed that the Sun was the size of a shield, and Anaxagoras was banished for impiety for proposing that it might be bigger than the Peloponnesian peninsula of Greece. (At least he wasn’t forced to drink hemlock.) Ptolemy’s estimate of the size of the universe, with a diameter of 50 million miles, was comparatively vast, but would still fit entirely within what we now know to be the Earth’s orbit about the Sun. And that was about as big as the Aristotelian universe could get.14 For the Aristotelian model of the universe placed a upper limit on its size. If the Earth is motionless and the stars circle about it in a day, they really have to hustle: …the firmament circles round forever and carries with it distant stars and planets at whirling, blinding speed… - Ovid, p. 59
11 12

Psalm 8:1. The Convivio, by Dante Alighieri. Excerpt of Book Two, Chapter 3. Translated by Richard Lansing. Source: http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/projects/dante/books/convivi/convivio2.html#07 ] 13 Ibid, Chapter 4. 14 Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way. Anchor Books, 1989, pp. 33-34.

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The stars of Ptolemy’s universe, for example, would have had to race at 10 million miles an hour to return to their position in the sky on the following night. And if the universe was just a little larger (e.g., the size of the solar system as we now know it), they would have to travel at greater than the speed of light, a speed that – even before the birth of Einstein – is clearly too much to ask of any star. So, although any damn fool knew that the Earth was the motionless center of the universe, less foolish people were beginning to wonder, by the 16th Century, how that could be possible.15 The first doubter was a Greek, Aristarchus (circa 310-230 BCE), who, having calculated the diameter of the Sun as 19 times larger than that of the Moon (actually, it’s 400), found it hard to believe that a giant Sun would orbit a smaller Earth, and decided to make the Sun the center of his model. But since everyone knew that the Earth does not rotate, his model was ignored.16 It was not revived until 18 centuries later, by the Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus, in good Renaissance fashion, read his Aristotle and Plato and Ptolemy (the printing press having just been invented) and was inspired by their vision of the cosmos, just as Michelangelo was inspired by the rediscovery of Greek statuary. He developed his heliocentric (Sun-centered) model partly out of homage to Plato’s conviction that the universe must have an underlying simplicity and harmony, reasoning that Ptolemy’s creaking machinery of epicycles upon epicycles “seemed neither sufficiently absolute nor sufficiently pleasing to the mind.” He was also influenced by the Neo-Platonic Sun worship that was popular in the art of his time. (Recall Michelangelo’s portrayal of Christ as Apollo the Sun God on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.) On top of these considerations, and crucial to the decline in respect for the Ptolemaic system, was that it did not work: even after endless tinkering, it still failed to predict, by days and weeks, where the planets would be in the sky.17 So Copernicus placed the Sun in the center of his model and relegated the Earth to the status of one of the planets in orbit about it. This allowed him potentially to explain the retrograde motion of the outer planets without recourse to epicycles. The Earth, circling the sun on an orbit inside those planets, first overtakes and then passes them, causing them to appear, to an observer on the Earth, to move backward and then forward again. (See
the diagram of retrograde motion on the following page.)

Moon

Saturn Jupiter Mars Earth Venus Mercury Sun

Fixed Stars

But Copernicus’s loyalty to Plato and Aristotle (in all things except placing the Earth at the center) required that he retain a universe of concentric spheres and constant velocities. “‘The sphere,’ he wrote, echoing Plato, ‘is the most perfect, the most capacious of figures …

Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the Universe

15 16

Ferris, p. 34. Ferris, pp. 35-36. See also http://www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Sarist.htm 17 Ferris, pp. 62-65. It thus failed in its crucial religious function of accurately predicting the occurrence of Easter.

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wherein neither beginning nor end can be found.’” As a result, his model fared little better that the Ptolemaic one in predicting the movement of the planets.18 (It fell to Johann 7 Kepler, Galileo’s contemporary, to save the Copernican system by showing that the orbits of the planets are ellipses, not circles, and that their speed changes as the approach and retreat from the Sun.)
Path of Earth Path of Mars
6

a constellation of the zodiac
4 5 3 2

7 6

1 2

5 4 3

The Copernican Explanation of Retrograde Motion
Apparent position of Mars against background stars, as seen from Earth

1

Like Darwin, Copernicus developed his model in secret and then showed it only to friends, waiting until his death, in 1543, to have it published.19 That way, he never felt the sting of Martin Luther’s insult – “this fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still, and not the Earth”20 – and the many other condemnations heaped upon it. But astonomers were more receptive because – as would be true for Darwin three centuries later - his model offerred a scientifically credible alternative to a dogma that was becoming increasing untenable. Copernicus’s model removed the limit to the possible size of the universe – his own estimate was 400,000 times that of Ptolemy’s – and allowed one to calculate, rather than merely estimate, the actual distance between the planets. Enter Galileo Galielo was born in 1564 in Pisa, Italy, to a father who was a muscian by trade but also an amateur mathematician, an experimentalist, a writer of dialogues, and an advocate of free inquiry. His son inherited a talent for all of the above, plus an acerbic wit and a penchant for seeking fame and collecting enemies.21 Galileo began studying medicine but, repelled by the intellectual ossification of the discipline – one had to learn anatomy from a 1500-year old text, dissection being forbidden by the Church – he dropped out and “spent four irresponsible and productive years lazing about at home, reading
Ferris, pp. 65-66. Darwin, too, might have procrastinated as long, and for roughly the same reasons, had a colleague (A.R. Wallace) not developed the theory independently, endangering Darwin’s claim to primacy and spurring his publication. 20 Ferris, p. 67. 21 Ferris, p. 84.
19 18

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Virgil and Ovid, building little machines, and studying mathematics…”22 At age 25, without a degree, he wrangled an appointent as professor of mathematics, first at Pisa, then at the University of Padua, in the relatively liberal Republic of Venice. (UC students, please note that college dropouts these days are lucky to serve burgers at McDonalds, let alone obtain a professorship at Penn.) Once there he made a name for himself, and a passel of enemies, by taking on the academic establishment’s slavish devotion to the authority of Aritostle. Galileo had gradually become an adherent of the Copernican system. He was among those who observed the great nova (an intensely bright exploding star) that appeared, seemingly from nowhere, in 1604. Since the heavens were, according to Aristotle, immutable and perfect, the Aristotlean professors of Galileo’s time argued that the nova lay below the sphere of the Moon and was not strictly be part of the heavens. But Galileo, convinced by his observations that the nova lay far out in the heavens among the fixed stars, presented his view in a dialogue between two Paduan peasents, an literary approach that anticipated the Dialogue of the Two World Systems that he would write 28 years later.23 Galileo’s fame began in 1609 when, having built one of the first telescopes, he pointed it at the heavens and discovered an array of new evidence in favor of the Sun-centered model: The sky has depth. Rather than observing a single layer of stars on an outer Aristotelian sphere, the deeper he peered into the heavens, the more stars he saw: “You will behold through the telescope a host of other stars, which escape unaided sight, so numerous as to be almost beyond belief.” The universe is even bigger than was suspected. The Moon, far from being perfect, is as much a mess as the Earth, an observation that shattered irreparably the already shaken Aristotlean concept of the perfection of the heavens: “…one may learn with all the certainty of sense evidence that the Moon is not robed in a smooth and polished surface but is, in fact, rough and uneven, covered everywhere, just like the Earth’s surface, with huge prominences, deep valleys, and chasms.” 24
Galileo’s rendering of his obserVenus, like the Moon, passes through phases. “These vations of the Moon, Dec., 1608 things leave no room for doubt about the orbit of Venus. With necessity we shall conclude … that Venus revolves around the Sun just as do all the other planets.”25 (Of all Galileo’s observations and arguments for the Copernican model, this is the one truly conclusive one.)

Jupiter has four satellites of its own. “Here we have a fine and elegant argument for quieting the doubts of those who, while accepting with tranquil mind the revolution of the planets around the Sun in the Coperican system, are mightly disturbed to have the Moon alone revolve around the Earth.” 26
22 23

Ferris, p. 85. Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter, Walker Publishing Comp., 1999, Chapter V. 24 Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, translated by Stillman Drake. Anchor Books, 1957, p. 28. 25 Ferris, pp. 88-89. 26 Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, translated by Stillman Drake. Anchor Books, 1957, p. 57.

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Galileo published these observations, and used them to support the Copernican model, in The Starry Messenger, in 1610. To these he added, in 1613, the Sunspot Letters, which reported blemishes on the erstwhile perfect face of the Sun. Together, these books placed him in the forefront of the Copernican camp, and added new detractors to his already generous collection of enemies. What is more, having used his discoveries with the telescope to win a place as chief mathematician and philospher of Tuscany (he named the moons of Jupiter after the Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo II dé Medici), he now became ever more embroilded in Church politics.27 At least initially, Galileo’s enemies numbered more among his fellow academics than among the Church fathers, and the latter included many warm friends and supporters. When a Dominican monk, Tommasio Caccini, with ties to Galileo’s opponents among the philosphers, began his denounciation of Galileo with:
Men of Galilee, why do ye stand looking up to heaven? [Acts 1:11]

and followed by branding Galileo and his allies as “practitioners of diabolical arts … enemies of true relgion 28,” the “preacher general of the Dominican order, Father Luigi Maraffi, apologized to Galileo for the fact that he was sometimes obilged ‘to answer for all the idiocies that thirty or forty thousand brothers may or actually do committ.’”29 But his enemeies were gaining ground. One encounter with long-reaching consequences was that between Galileo’s friend and student, the Benedictine monk Bennetto Castelli30, and the dowager Grand Duchess Madama Cristina dé Medici. Castelli had been regaling the Duchess over breakfast about his observations of the Medicean Planets – a.k.a., the moons of Jupiter. Far from being pleased that these now famous stellar bodies bore her name, the Grand Duchess was disturbed. The source of her unhappiness was her deep faith and the arguments of another breakfast guest, the Platonic philosopher Doctor Cosimo Boscaglia.
After many things, all of which passed with decorum [Castelli wrote Galileo], breakfast was over. I left, but I had hardly come out of the palace when I was overtaken by the porter of Madama Cristina, who had recalled me. But before I tell you what followed, you must first know that while we were at table Doctor Boscaglia had had Madama’s ear for a while, and while conceding as real all the things you have discovered in the sky, he said that only the motion of the Earth had in it something of the incredible, and could not occur, especially because the Holy Scripture was obviously contrary to that view.31

Troubled that as important a person as the Grand Duchess was susceptible to arguments that scripture required belief in the Earth-centered model of Aritotle and Ptolemy, Galileo composed a letter to her, defending his intellectual freedom and the religious propriety of pursuing science. Galileo’s Letter to Madame Christina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany was not published for two decades but, beginning in 1615, was circulated widely among Galileo’s friends, and quickly came into the hands of his enemies. These enemies were ready when Galileo arrived in Rome in December of 1615 to promote Copernican theory in the capital of the Pope. Warned by his friends to be careful – “this is no
27 28

Sobel, Chapter V. Sobel, Chapter VI. 29 Ferris, p. 97 30 Enemies aside, many astronomers of the day were priests and monks, and many of these were friends of Galileo. 31 Sobel, Chapter VI.

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place to come to argue about the Moon,” wrote the Tuscan ambassador – Galileo persisted in the face of clear warnings from the powerful Cardinal Bellarmino that to teach Copernicanism as fact would be “a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arose all scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting scripture.”32 Cardinal Bellarmino, “Master of Controversial Questions at the Roman College” and nicknamed “hammer of the heretics,” respected Galileo as an astronomer, but could not tolerate his teaching, as fact, a theory that contradicted the clear words of scripture:
[The words] ‘the Sun also riseth and the Sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose, etc.’ were those of Solomon [wrote Bellarmino], who not only spoke by divine inspiration but was a man wise above all others and most learned in human sciences and in the knowledge of all created things, and his wisdom was from God. Thus it is not likely that he would affirm something which was contrary to a truth either already demonstrated, or likely to be demonstrated … experience tells him plainly that the Earth is standing still and that his eyes are not deceived when they report that the Sun, Moon, and stars are in motion.33

The outcome in 1616 was a severe setback for Galileo – Copernicanism was declared by the Holy Office to be contrary to scripture, Copernicus’s book was banned, and Galileo was told to desist in teaching it as fact. Kepler, his Protestant counterpart in the defense of Copernicanism, was irate: “Some, through their imprudent behavior, have brought things to such a point that the reading of the works of Copernicus, which remained absolutely free for eighty years, is now prohibited.34 Galileo, however, escaped direct censure and none of his own works were banned. The outcome could have been worse (and later it would be): Giordano Bruno had 18 years earlier been investigated by the same Bellarmino and burned at the stake for insisting, among other heresies, that the Earth traveled around the Sun, that the stars were each suns, and that the universe was infinitely large. Silenced for the time being on the subject of Copernicus, Galileo turned his attention to the comet of 1618, the first to appear since the invention of the telescope, and fell into a literary feud with the Jesuit astronomer Father Orazio Grassi, thus adding the Jesuits to his collection of enemies. Although Grassi correctly deduced that the comet lay far out in space – Galileo thought erroneously that it was an atmospheric disturbance – Grassi made several egregious mathematical errors that caused him to inflate the size of the comet to billions of times that of the Moon. Worse yet, he showed he did not understand the principles of Galileo’s cherished instrument, the telescope. Galileo exposed these errors by ghostwriting two public lectures by his student Mario Guiducci, and Grassi responded angrily (using the pen name Lothario Sarsi) in his book Libra Astronomica, or Astronomical and Philosophical Balance. Galileo’s response to Grassi/Sarsi was his next book, Il Saggiatore, or The Assayer. (Galileo’s first riposte is in the title itself: assayers of gold and silver use the most accurate of all balances.35) The CIE excerpts of The Assayer highlight Galileo’s complaints about his enemies, his philosophy of science, and his anticipation of modern atomic theory. Despite avoiding
32 33

Ferris, p. 97 Sobel, Chapter VII. 34 Ferris, p. 98 35 Sobel, Chapter VIII

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mention of Copernicus, The Assayer still got Galileo into trouble. Complaints were made to the Holy Office of the Inquisition that the proto-atomic theory in The Assayer undermined the Sacrament of the Eucharist by calling into question the transformation of Christ’s blood and body. This caused Galileo to lay low for a time. 36 37 Galileo published The Assayer in 1623, dedicating it to his good friend, Maffeo Cardinal Barbareni, newly elected as Pope Urban VIII. Both Cardinal Bellarmino and Paul V, the pope during Galileo’s defeat in 1616, had died the previous year. With an ally installed as pope, Galileo now began to hope that he could return to advocating the Copernican system, and perhaps even write his long-planned dialogue comparing its merits to that of the Aristotelian system.38 Urban had supported Galileo back in 1616, keeping the word “heresy” out of the final edict and agreeing with the argument that banning Copernicus had caused Catholic scientists to lose face in northern Europe. He was particularly fond of Galileo’s “parable of the cicada” (found in the CIE excerpts of The Assayer), which Urban interpreted as meaning that the boundless creativity of the Creator prevented human scientists from perceiving a single true reality in nature. Thus –and Galileo was to learn this to his sorrow – Urban considered Copernicanism no more than an interesting tool for calculating planetary movement, an instrumental theory in the Platonic sense, and not as a description of reality that had any chance of being proven. Therefore, Urban gave Galileo his consent to once more teach the hypothesis of a Sun-centered universe, so long as he did no more than that.39 So Galileo went to work, and what emerged was a dialogue, a style that he had learned from his father and employed before, and one that allowed him to distance himself from the Copernican theory that he was ordered to treat “only as a hypothesis.” His 500- Galileo in 1624 (portrait by Leoni in crayon) page Dialogue on the Two World Systems was written in Italian to reach a wide middle class audience. It takes place over the course of four days (four acts, so to speak) and involves three speakers: Sagredo, host of the intellectual debate, is an intelligent, discerning layman who acts in some ways as judge of the debate. Salviati is clearly the stand-in for Galileo. Although he makes a case for both sides (and claims utter neutrality on the question), his arguments for Copernicanism are compelling.
36 37

Sobel, Chapter XIII One modern scholar (Redondi, Pietro, author of Galileo Heretic, Princeton Univ. Press, 1987.) has argued that it was Galileo’s atomic theory and its threat to the Eucharist that, more than his advocacy of Copernicanism, caused him to be condemned as a heretic in 1633. 38 Sobel, Chapters XIII and IX. 39 Sobel, Chapter XII.

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Simplicio represents the Aristotelian philosophers, long the butt of Galileo’s jibes. How he fares in the dialogue we leave you to judge but, if you want a hint, consider his name. Before proceeding, return to pages 2-3 of this essay and refresh your memory on why people were convinced that the Earth was the center of the universe. The Dialogue deals with each of these in turn. Day 1 considers the Aristotelian conviction that the heavens comprise unchanging perfection in contrast to the mutable, degraded Earth. Here Salviati reprises the long list of Galileo’s telescopic observations that leave the Aristotelian view in tatters: mountains on the Moon, spots on the Sun, new stars (novae) that appear where none were evident before. On Day 2 the three interlocutors consider whether the Earth moves. In the CIE abridgment of Day 2 of the Dialogue, Salviati begins by questioning whether it is reasonable to assume that all the universe revolves around the Earth. Then, with Simplicio’s support, he first reiterates those observations that make it appear that the Earth is motionless, and follows them, to Simplicio’s discomfort, with arguments that turn these observations on their head. Day 3 features Salviati explaining how the arc traveled by sunspots around the Sun – which curves upward and then downward on an annual rather than a daily cycle – supports the Copernican model. They also argue about the size of the universe, Simplicio contending that it must be small because God would not make so much empty space of no possible use to man, to which Salviati replies “We take too much upon ourselves, Simplicio, when we will have it that merely taking care of us is the adequate work of Divine wisdom and power…”40 Instead, Salviati imagines a universe far vaster, with no center about which everything else circles: “I might very reasonably dispute whether there is in Nature such a center, seeing that neither you nor anyone else has so far proved whether the universe is finite and has a shape, or whether it is infinite and unbounded.”41 Aristotelians had long argued that, if the Earth revolved about the Sun, the fixed stars would appear to shift their positions, which they do not do. Salviati replied that such an effect would be miniscule if the stars were very far away, but potentially detectable as telescopes improved.42 The Dialogue ends with Day 4, which considers how the tides might provide evidence for one system or the other. Then it concludes with a final summing up, which “demanded delicate diplomacy, for the text of the third and fourth days advanced compelling physical arguments in support of Copernicus, while the overall tenor of the book needed to preserve the spirit of hypothesis, as Galileo had promised Urban it would.”43 [See the short CIE excerpt of Day 4.] Galileo’s friends and supporters, including many priests and monks, were delighted by the Dialogue. But, however carefully Galileo may have thought he crafted his pro-Copernican arguments, his craft proved insufficient. Like all books published in Italy in his time, the
40 41

Sobel, Chapter XV. The size of the observable universe is now estimated at 10 billion light years (approx. 60 billion trillion miles) across. And the non-observable part of the universe (that which lies so far beyond earth that light from it could not have reached us since the Big Bang 12 billion years ago) could be much larger yet. See http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/971124x.html. 42 Salviati/Galileo was correct and such an effect, termed parallax, was finally observed for a nearby star in 1838. 43 Sobel, Chapter XVI.

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Dialogue had undergone the scrutiny of Church censors – forcing Galileo to revise certain passages – before receiving a lisence to be published. But that did not protect Galileo from the denunciations that began to appear along with the praise. During the years that Galileo had been writing his dialogue, Pope Urban VIII had become increasingly burdened by war, politics, the threat of Protestantism, and his own aggrandizement, leaving him little time to think about his friend the astronomer. When the Dialogue appeared in 1632, Urban lacked the time to read it himself, but what his advisers told him enraged his Holiness. For Galileo, required by Church censors to include Urban’s philosophy of science – that God controls nature in ways “which are unthinkable to our minds” – had placed it at the end of Day 4 in the mouth of Simplicio, whom Galileo had played for a fool throughout the Dialogue. A commission convened by the Pope reported “that Galileo may have overstepped his instructions by asserting absolutely the Earth’s motion and the Sun’s immobility, thus deviating from hypothesis.” Galileo’s numerous enemies in the Vatican argued that the Pope, already accused of insufficient enthusism in battling Protestantism, could not be lenient is punishing this insult to Catholic doctrine.44 Galileo, called back to Rome in 1633 to face charges of heresy, underwent a greuling examination by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The examination focused on whether Galileo, in writing the Dialogue, had violated a (possibly forged) 1616 decree that stipulated that:
the said opinion that the Sun is the center of the universe and the Earth moves must be entirely abandoned, nor might he from then on in any way hold, teach, or defend it by word or in writing; otherwise the Holy Office would proceed against him.45

Galileo at first defended himself, maintaining that:
…I have neither maintained nor defended in that book the opinion that the Earth moves and that the Sun is stationary but have rather demonstrated the opposite of the Copernican opinion and shown that the arguments of Copernicus are weak and inconclusive.46

But he failed to persudade his inquisitors, who wrote:
It is beyond question that Galileo teaches the Earth’s motion in writing. His whole book speaks for itself. Nor can one teach in any other way those of future generations and those who are absent except through writing … and he writes in Italian, certainly not to extend the hand to foreigners or other learned men, but rather to entice to that view common people in whom errors very easily take root.47

Finally, Galileo’s friends, including one cardinal among his inquisitors, persuaded the exhausted 69 year old astronomer that he was in serious trouble. He could suffer torture or be burned at the stake. (That had been Bruno’s fate.) But the Pope also had reasons to be conciliatory and avoid the scandal of torching Europe’s most famous scientist. So Galileo re-read his Dialogue and concluded that he may have made the case for Copernicanism too ardently:
…owing to my not having seen it [the Dialogue] for so long, it presented itself to me like a new writing and by another author. I freely confess that in several places it seemed to me set
44 45

Sobel, Chapter XX. Sobel, Chapter XXII. 46 Sobel, Chapter XXII 47 Sobel, Chapter XXIII

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forth in such a form that a reader ignorant of my real purpose might have had reason to suppose that the arguments brought on the false [Copernican] side, and which it was my intention to confute, were so expressed as to be calculated rather to compel conviction by their cogency than to be easy of solution. My error, then, has been – and I confess it – one of vainglorious ambition and of pure ignorance and inadvertence.48

Galileo offered to remove all the offending passages from his book, in hope of saving it from condemnation, but to no avail. Under explicit threat of torture if he did not cooperate, Galileo’s Dialogue was condemned as heretical, and Galileo was required to proclaim publically:
that I have always believed, I believe now, and with God’s help I will in future believe all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But whereas – after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the Earth is not the center of the same and that it moves, and that I must not hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine, and after it had been notified to me that the said doctrine was contrary to Holy Writ – I wrote and caused to be printed a book in which I treat of the already condemned doctrine, and adduce arguments of much efficacy in its favor, without arriving at any solution: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, an d that the Earth is not the center and moves. Therefore, wishing to remove from the minds of your Eminences and of all faithful Christians this vehement suspicion justly conceived against me, I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church. And I swear that for the future I will never again say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicion; and if I know any heretic, or person suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I may be. 22nd day of June 1633.49

Galileo lived out the rest of his life under house arrest. During his seventies he wrote the Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences, which laid the foundation of modern physics but made no mention of the Copernican model of the universe. His banned Dialogue on the Two World Systems, already sold out in Italy prior to the ban, was smuggled across the Alps, where it was reprinted throughout Europe. It was not lifted from the Index of forbidden books until 1835. As Galileo had feared, science was stifled in Italy but flourished in the Protestant north, where a half century later, Isaac Newton would finally lay the Aristotelian cosmos to rest with his laws of motion and gravity. The next clash between religion and science would come with Darwin.

48 49

Sobel, Chapter XXIII. Sobel, Chapter XXIV.

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Dialogue Concerning The Two Chief Systems of the World– Ptolemaic & Copernican
Propounding inconclusively the philosophical and physical reasons as much for one side as for the other.

by Galileo Galilei Excerpts from Day Two (From the translation by Stillman Drake, U. Calif. Press, 1967.)
SALVIATI. Yesterday [Day One] took us into so many and such great digressions twisting away from the main thread of our principal argument that I do not know whether I shall be able to go ahead without your assistance in putting me back on the track. SAGREDO. I am not surprised that you should find yourself in some confusion, for your mind is as much filled and encumbered with what remains to be said as with what has been said. But I am simply a listener and have in my mind only the things I have heard, so perhaps I can put your discourse back on its path by briefly outlining these for you. As I recall it, yesterday’s discourse may be summarized as a preliminary examination of the two following opinions as to which is the more probable and reasonable. The first holds the substance of the heavenly bodies to be ingenerable, incorruptible; inalterable, invariant, and in a word free from all mutations except those of situation, and accordingly to be a quintessence most different from our generable, corruptible, alterable bodies. The other opinion, removing this disparity from the world’s parts, considers the earth to enjoy the same perfection as other integral bodies of the universe; in short, to be a movable and a moving body no less than the moon, Jupiter, Venus, or any other planet. Later many detailed parallels were drawn between the earth and the moon. More comparisons were made with the moon than with other planets, perhaps from our having more and better sensible evidence about the former by reason of its lesser distance. And having finally concluded this second opinion to have more likelihood than the other, it seems to me that our next step should be to examine whether the earth must be considered immovable, as most people have believed up to the present, or mobile, as many ancient philosophers believed and as others of more recent times consider it; and, if movable, what its motion may be. SALV. Now I know and recognize the signposts along our road. But before starting in again and going ahead, I ought to tell you that I question this last thing you have said, about our having concluded in favor of the opinion that the earth is endowed with the same properties as the heavenly bodies. For I did not conclude this, just as I am not deciding upon any other controversial proposition. My intention was only to adduce those arguments and replies, as much on one side as on the other – those questions and solutions which others have thought of up to the present time ( together with a few which have occurred to me after long thought) – and then to leave the decision to the judgment of others. SAGR. I allowed myself to be carried away by my own sentiments, and believing that what I felt in my heart ought to be felt by others too, I made that conclusion universal which should have been kept particular. This really was an error on my part, especially as I do not know the views of Simplicio, here present.

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SIMPLICIO. I confess that all last night I was meditating on yesterday’s material, and truly I find it to contain many beautiful considerations which are novel and forceful. Still, I am much more impressed by the authority of so many great authors, and in particular... You shake your head, Sagredo, and smile, as if I had uttered some absurdity. SAGR. I merely smile, but believe me, I am hardly able to keep from laughing, because I am reminded of a situation that I witnessed not many years ago … SALV. Perhaps you had better tell us about it so that Simplicio will not go on thinking your mirth was directed at him. SAGR. I’ll be glad to. One day I was at the home of a very famous doctor in Venice, where many persons came on account of their studies, and others occasionally came out of curiosity to see some anatomical dissection performed by a man who was truly no less learned than he was a careful and expert anatomist. It happened on this day that he was investigating the source and origin of the nerves, about which there exists a notorious controversy between the Galenist1 and Peripatetic2 doctors. The anatomist showed that the great trunk of nerves, leaving the brain and passing through the nape, extended on down the spine and then branched out through the whole body, and that only a single strand as fine as a thread arrived at the heart. Turning to a gentleman whom he knew to be a Peripatetic philosopher, and on whose account he had been exhibiting and demonstrating everything with unusual care, he asked this man whether he was at last satisfied and convinced that the nerves originated in the brain and not in the heart. The philosopher, after considering for awhile, answered: “You have made me see this matter so plainly and palpably that if Aristotle’s text were not contrary to it, stating clearly that the nerves originate in the heart, I should be forced to admit it to be true.” SIMP. Sir, I want you to know that this dispute as to the source of the nerves is by no means as settled and decided as perhaps some people like to think. SAGR. Doubtless it never will be, in the minds of such opponents. But what you say does not in the least diminish the absurdity of this Peripatetic’s reply; who, as a counter to sensible experience, adduced no experiment or argument of Aristotle’s, but just the authority of his bare ipse dixit. SIMP. Aristotle acquired his great authority only because of the strength of his proofs and the profundity of his arguments. Yet one must understand him, and not merely understand him but have such thorough familiarity with his books that the most complete idea of them may be formed, in such a manner that every saying of his is always before the mind… SAGR: My dear Simplicio … what you and other brave philosophers will do with Aristotle’s texts, I shall do with the verses of Virgil and Ovid, making centos of them and explaining by means of these all the affairs of men and the secrets of nature…

Adherents of Galen, a Greek physician of the 2nd century, CE. (This and subsequent footnotes added by the CIE.) Adherents of Aristotelian philosophy, in this case Aristotelian medicine. From the Greek, peripatctikos, “to walk about,” which refers to the followers of Aristotle who walked about in the Lyceum while he taught.
2

1

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SALV. That is not quite how matters stand, Simplicio. Some of his followers are so excessively timid that they give us occasion (or more correctly would give us occasion if we credited their triflings) to think less of him. Tell me, are you so credulous as not to understand that if Aristotle had been present and heard this doctor who wanted to make him inventor of the telescope, he would have been much angrier with him than with those who laughed at this doctor and his interpretations? Is it possible for you to doubt that if Aristotle should see the new discoveries in the sky he would change his opinions and correct his books and embrace the most sensible doctrines, casting away from himself those people so weakminded as to be induced to go on abjectly maintaining everything he had ever said? Why, if Aristotle had been such a man as they imagine, he would have been a man of intractable mind, of obstinate spirit, and barbarous soul; a man of tyrannical will who, regarding all others as silly sheep, wished to have his decrees preferred over the senses, experience, and nature itself. It is the followers of Aristotle who have crowned him with authority, not he who has usurped or appropriated it to himself. And since it is handier to conceal oneself under the cloak of another than to show one’s face in open court, they dare not in their timidity get a single step away from him, and rather than put any alterations into the heavens of Aristotle, they want to deny out of hand those that they see in nature’s heaven. SAGR. Such people remind me of that sculptor who, having transformed a huge block of marble into the image of a Hercules or a thundering Jove, I forget which, and having with consummate art made it so lifelike and fierce that it moved everyone with terror who beheld it, he himself began to be afraid, though all its vivacity and power were the work of his own hands; and his terror was such that he no longer dared affront it with his mallet and chisel. SALV. I often wonder how it can be that these strict supporters of Aristotle’s every word fail to perceive how great a hindrance to his credit and reputation they are, and how the more they desire to increase his authority, the more they actually detract from it. For when I see them being obstinate about sustaining propositions which I personally know to be obviously false, and wanting to persuade me that what they are doing is truly philosophical and would be done by Aristotle himself, it much weakens my opinion that he philosophized correctly about other matters more recondite to me… SIMP. But if Aristotle is to be abandoned, whom shall we have for a guide in philosophy? Perhaps you name some author. SALV. We need guides in forests and in unknown lands, but on plains and in open places only the blind need guides. It is better for such people to stay at home, but anyone with eyes in his head and his wits about him could serve as a guide for them. In saying this, I do not mean that a person should not listen to Aristotle; indeed, I applaud the reading and careful study of his works, and I reproach only those who give themselves up as slaves to him in such a way as to subscribe blindly to everything he says and take it as an inviolable decree without looking for any other reasons. This abuse carries with it another profound disorder, that other people do not try harder to comprehend the strength of his demonstrations. And what is more revolting in a public dispute, when someone is dealing with demonstrable conclusions, than to hear him interrupted by a text ( often written to some quite different purpose) thrown into his teeth by an opponent? If, indeed, you wish to continue in this method of studying, then put aside the name of philosophers and call

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yourselves historians, or memory experts; for it is not proper that those who never philosophize should usurp the honorable title of philosopher. But we had better get back to shore, lest we enter into a boundless ocean and not get out of it all day. So put forward the arguments and demonstrations, Simplicio – either yours or Aristotle’s – but not just texts and bare authorities, because our discourses must relate to the sensible world and not to one on paper. And since in yesterday’s argument the earth was lifted up out of darkness and exposed to the open sky, and the attempt to number it among the bodies we call heavenly was shown to be not so hopeless and prostrate a proposition that it remained without a spark of life, we should follow this up by examining that other proposition which holds it to be probable that the earth is fixed and utterly immovable as to its entire globe, and see what chance there is of making it movable, and with what motion. Now because I am undecided about this question, whereas Simplicio has his mind made up with Aristotle on the side of immovability, he shall give the reasons for his opinion step by step, and I the answers and the arguments of the other side, while Sagredo shall tell us the workings of his mind and the side toward which he feels it drawn. SAGR. That suits me very well, provided that I retain the freedom to bring up whatever common sense may dictate to me from time to time. SALV. Indeed, I particularly beg you to do so; for I believe that writers on the subject have left out few of the easier and, so to speak, more material considerations, so that only those are lacking and may be wished for which are subtler and more recondite. And to look into these, what ingenuity can be more fitting than that of Sagredo’s acute and penetrating wit? SAGR. Describe me as you like, Salviati, but please let us not get into another digression – the ceremonial. For I am now a philosopher, and am at school and not in court. SALV. Then let the beginning of our reflections be the consideration that whatever motion comes to be attributed to the earth must necessarily remain imperceptible to us and as if nonexistent, so long as we look only at terrestrial objects; for as in habitants of the earth, we consequently participate in the same motion. But on the other hand it is indeed just as necessary that it displays itself very generally in all other visible bodies and objects which, being separated from the earth, do not take part in this movement. So the true method of investigating whether any motion can be attributed to the earth, and if so what it may be, is to observe and consider whether bodies separated from the earth exhibit some appearance of motion which belongs equally to all. For a motion which is perceived only, for example, in the moon, and which does not affect Venus or Jupiter or the other stars, cannot in any way be the earth’s or anything but the moon’s. Now there is one motion which is most general and supreme over all, and it is that by which the sun, moon, and all other planets and fixed stars – in a word, the whole universe, the earth alone excepted – appear to move as a unit from east to west in the space of 24 hours. This, in so far as first appearances are concerned, may just as logically belong to the earth alone as to the rest of the universe, since the same appearance would prevail as much in one situation as in the other. Thus it is that Aristotle and Ptolemy, who thoroughly understood this consideration, in their attempt to prove the earth immovable, do not argue against any other motion that this diurnal one…

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…[So, let us consider] those reasons which seem to favor the earth’s motion, so that we may then hear their refutation from Simplicio. First, let us consider only the immense bulk of the starry sphere in contrast with the smallness of the terrestrial globe, which is contained in the former so many millions of times. Now if we think of the velocity of motion required to make a complete rotation in a single day and night, I cannot persuade myself that anyone could be found who would think it the more reasonable and credible thing that it was the celestial sphere which did the turning, and the terrestrial globe which remained fixed. SAGR. If, throughout the whole variety of effects that could exist in nature as dependent upon these motions, all the same consequences followed indifferently to a hairsbreadth from both positions, still my first general impression of them would be this: I should think that anyone who considered it more reasonable for the whole universe to move in order to let the earth remain fixed would be more irrational than one who should climb to the top of your cupola just to get a view of the city and its environs, and then demand that the whole countryside should revolve around him so that he would not have to take the trouble to turn his head. Doubtless there are many and great advantages to be drawn from the new theory and not from the previous one (which to my mind is comparable with or even surpasses the above in absurdity), making the former more credible than the latter. But perhaps Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Simplicio ought to marshal their advantages against us and set them forth, too, if such there are; otherwise it will be clear to me that there are none and cannot be any. SALV. Despite much thinking about it, I have not been able to find any difference, so it seems to me I have found that there can be no difference; hence I think it vain to seek one further. For consider: Motion, in so far as it is and acts as motion, to that extent exists relatively to things that lack it; and among things which all share equally in any motion, it does not act, and is as if it did not exist. Thus the goods with which a ship is laden leaving Venice, pass by Corfu, by Crete, by Cyprus and go to Aleppo. Venice, Corfu, Crete, etc. stand still and do not move with the ship; but as to the sacks, boxes, and bundles with which the boat is laden and with respect to the ship itself, the motion from Venice to Syria is as nothing, and in no way alters their relation among themselves. This is so because it is common to all of them and all share equally in it. If, from the cargo in the ship, a sack were shifted from a chest, one single inch, this alone would be more of a movement for it than the two-thousand-mile journey made by all of them together. SIMP. This is good, sound doctrine, and entirely Peripatetic. SALV. I should have thought it somewhat older… SAGR. Please do not break the thread, but continue with the argument already begun. SALV. It is obvious, then, that motion which is common to many moving things is idle and inconsequential to the relation of these movables among themselves, nothing being changed among them, and that it is operative only in the relation that they have with other bodies lacking that motion, among which their location is changed. Now, having divided the universe into two parts, one of which is necessarily movable and the other motionless,

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it is the same thing to make the earth alone move, and to move all the rest of the universe, so far as concerns any result which may depend upon such movement. For the action of such a movement is only in the relation between the celestial bodies and the earth, which relation alone is changed. Now if precisely the same effect follows whether the earth is made to move and the rest of the universe stay still, or the earth alone remains fixed while the whole universe shares one motion, who is going to believe that nature (which by general agreement does not act by means of many things when it can do so by means of few) has chosen to make an immense number of extremely large bodies move with inconceivable velocities, to achieve what could have been done by a moderate movement of one single body around its own center? …And let us redouble the difficulty with another very great one, which is this. If this great motion is attributed to the heavens, it has to be made in the opposite direction from the specific motion of all the planetary orbs, of which each one incontrovertibly has its own motion from west to east, this being very gentle and moderate, and must then be made to rush the other way; that is, from east to west, with this very rapid diurnal motion. Whereas by making the earth itself move, the contrariety of motions is removed, and the single motion from west to east accommodates all the observations and satisfies them all completely. …For anyone who reasons soundly, the unlikelihood is increased … by the incomprehensibility of what is called the “solidity” of that very vast sphere in whose depths are firmly fixed so many stars which, without changing place in the least among themselves, come to be carried around so harmoniously with such a disparity of motions. If, however, the heavens are fluid ( as may much more reasonably be believed) so that each star roves around in it by itself, what law will regulate their motion so that as seen from the earth they shall appear as if made into a single sphere? For this to happen, it seems to me that it is as much more effective and convenient to make them immovable than to have them roam around, as it is easier to count the myriad tiles set in a courtyard than to number the troop of children running around on them. Finally … if we attribute the diurnal rotation to the highest heaven, then this has to be made of such strength and power as to carry with it the innumerable host of fixed stars, all of them vast bodies and much larger than the earth, as well as to carry along the planetary orbs despite the fact that the two move naturally in opposite ways. Besides this, one must grant that the element of fire and the greater part of the air are likewise hurried along, and that only the little body of the earth remains defiant and resistant to such power. This seems to me to be most difficult; I do not understand why the earth, a suspended body balanced on its center and indifferent to motion or to rest, placed in and surrounded by an enclosing fluid, should not give in to such force and be carried around too. We encounter no such objections if we give the motion to the earth, a small and trifling body in comparison with the universe, and hence unable to do it any violence. SAGR. … Simplicio, begin producing those difficulties that seem to you to contradict this new arrangement of the universe. SIMP. The arrangement is not new; rather, it is most ancient, as is shown by Aristotle refuting it, the following being his refutations: [This abridgment skips the first three of Aristotle refutations and focuses on the fourth, which Galileo considered the most important.] Finally [Aristotle] strengthens this with a fourth argument taken from

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experiments with heavy bodies which, falling from a height, go perpendicularly to the surface of the earth. Similarly, projectiles thrown vertically upward come down again perpendicularly by the same line, even though they have been thrown to immense height. These arguments are necessary proofs that their motion is toward the center of the earth, which, without moving in the least, awaits and receives them… SALV. … Aristotle’s arguments are drawn mostly from the things around us, and he leaves the others to the astronomers. Hence it will be good, if it seems so to you, to examine those taken from earthly experiments… Therefore, Simplicio, present them, if you will; or, if you want me to relieve you of that burden, I am at your service. SIMP. It will be better for you to bring them up, for having given them greater study you will have them readier at hand, and in great number too. SALV. As the strongest reason of all is adduced that of heavy bodies, which, falling down from on high, go by a straight and vertical line to the surface of the earth. This is considered an irrefutable argument for the earth being motionless. For if it made the diurnal rotation, a tower from whose top a rock was let fall, being carried by the whirling of the earth, would travel many hundreds of yards to the east in the time the rock would consume in its fall, and the rock ought to strike the earth that distance away from the base of the tower. This effect they support with another experiment, which is to drop a lead ball from the top of the mast of a boat at rest, noting the place where it hits, which is close to the foot of the mast; but if the same ball is dropped from the same place when the boat is moving, it will strike at that distance from the foot of the mast which the boat will have run during the time of fall of the lead, and for no other reason than that the natural movement of the ball when set free is in a straight line toward the center of the earth. This argument is fortified with the experiment of a projectile sent a very great distance upward; this might be a ball shot from a cannon aimed perpendicular to the horizon. In its flight and return this consumes so much time that in our latitude the cannon and we would be carried together many miles eastward by the earth, so that the ball, falling, could never come back near the gun, but would fall as far to the west as the earth had run on ahead… SIMP. Oh, these are excellent arguments, to which it will be impossible to find a valid answer. SALV. Perhaps [some] are new to you? SIMP. Yes, indeed, and now I see with how many elegant experiments nature graciously wishes to aid us in coming to the recognition of the truth. Oh, how well one truth accords with another, and how all cooperate to make themselves indomitable. SAGR. What a shame there were no cannons in Aristotle’s time! With them he would indeed have battered down ignorance, and spoken without the least hesitation concerning the universe.

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SALV. It suits me very well that these arguments are new to you, for now you will not remain of the same opinion as most Peripatetics, who believe that anyone who departs from Aristotle’s doctrine must therefore have failed to understand his proofs… SAGR. …But let us hear the rest of the arguments favorable to [Aristotle’s] opinion so that we may proceed with their testing … weighing them in the assayer’s balance. SALV. Before going further I must tell Sagredo that I act the part of Copernicus in our arguments and wear his mask. As to the internal effects upon me of the arguments which I produce in his favor, I want you to be guided not by what I say when we are in the heat of acting out our play, but after I have put off the costume, for perhaps then you shall find me different from what you saw of me on the stage. Now let us proceed. Ptolemy and his followers produce another experiment like that of the projectiles, and it pertains to things which, separated from the earth, remain in the air a long time, such as clouds and birds in flight. Since of these it cannot be said that they are carried by the earth, as they do not adhere to it, it does not seem possible that they could keep up with its swiftness; rather, it ought to look to us as if they were being moved very rapidly westward. If we, carried by the earth, pass along our parallel ( which is at least sixteen thousand miles long) in twenty-four hours, how could the birds keep up on such a course? Whereas we see them fly east just as much as west or any other direction, without any detectable difference. Besides this, if, when we travel on horseback, we feel the air strike rather strongly upon our faces, then what an east wind should we not perpetually feel when being borne in such a rapid course against the air! Yet no such effect is felt… Here, Simplicio, are the very potent arguments taken, so to speak, from terrestrial things… SAGR. Well, what do you say Simplicio? Does it seem that Salviati understands and knows how to explain the Ptolemaic and Copernican arguments? Do you think any Peripatetic understands the Copernican proofs so well? SIMP. Had I not formed from previous arguments such a high opinion of Salviati’s soundness of learning and Sagredo’s sharpness of wit, with their kind permission I should wish to leave without hearing any more, as it would appear to me an impossible feat to contradict such palpable experiences. And without hearing any more, I should like to cling to my old opinion; for it seems to me that if, indeed, it is false, it may be excused on the grounds of its being supported by so many arguments of such great probability. If these are fallacies, what true demonstrations were ever more elegant? SAGR. Yet we had better listen to Salviati’s answers, which if true must be even more beautiful; infinitely more beautiful, and the others extremely ugly, if that metaphysical proposition is correct which says that the true and the beautiful are one in the same, as likewise are the false and the ugly. Therefore, Salviati, let us delay not a moment more… SALV. … Aristotle says, then, that a most certain proof of the earth's being motionless is that things projected perpendicularly upward are seen to return by the same line to the same place from which they were thrown, even though the movement is extremely high.

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This, he argues, could not happen if the earth moved, since in the time during which the projectile is moving upward and then downward it is separated from the earth, and the place from which the projectile began its motion would go a long way toward the east, thanks to the revolving of the earth, and the falling projectile would strike the earth that distance away from the place in question. Thus we can accommodate here the argument of the cannon ball as well as the other argument, used by Aristotle and Ptolemy, of seeing heavy bodies falling from great heights along a straight line perpendicular to the surface of the earth. Now, in order to begin to untie these knots, I ask Simplicio by what means he would prove that freely falling bodies go along straight and perpendicular lines directed toward the center, should anyone refuse to grant this to Aristotle and Ptolemy. SIMP. By means of the senses, which assure us that the tower is straight and perpendicular, and which show us that a falling stone goes along grazing it, without deviating a hairsbreadth to one side or the other, and strikes at the foot of the tower exactly under the place from which it was dropped. SALV. But if it happened that the earth rotated, and consequently carried along the tower, and if the falling stone were seen to graze the side of the tower just the same, what would its motion then have to be? SIMP. In that case one would have to say "its motions," for there would be one with which it went from top to bottom, and another one needed for following the path of the tower . SALV. The motion would then be a compound of two motions; the one with which it measures the tower, and the other with which it follows it. From this compounding it would follow that the rock would no longer describe that simple straight perpendicular line, but a slanting one, and perhaps not straight. SIMP. I don't know about its not being straight, but I understand well enough that it would have to be slanting, and different from the straight perpendicular line it would describe with the earth motionless. SALV. Hence just from seeing the falling stone graze the tower, you could not say for sure that it described a straight and perpendicular line, unless you first assumed the earth to stand still. SIMP. Exactly so; for if the earth were moving, the motion of the stone would be slanting and not perpendicular . SALV. Then here, clear and evident, is the paralogism3 of Aristotle and of Ptolemy, discovered by you yourself. They take as known that which is intended to be proved. SIMP. In what way? It looks to me like a syllogism in proper form, and not a petitio principii.4 SALV. In this way: Does he not, in his proof, take the conclusion as unknown?
3 4

Reasoning contrary to the rules of logic; faulty argument. The fallacy of assuming in the premise of an argument the conclusion which is to be proved.

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SIMP. Unknown, for otherwise it would be superfluous to prove it. SALV. And the middle term; does he not require that to be known ? SIMP. Of course; otherwise it would be an attempt to prove ignotum per aeque ignotum. SALV. Our conclusion, which is unknown and is to be proved; is this not the motionlessness of the earth? SIMP. That is what it is. SALV. Is not the middle term, which must be known, the straight and perpendicular fall of the stone? SIMP. That is the middle term. SALV. But wasn't it concluded a little while ago that we could not have any knowledge of this fall being straight and perpendicular unless it was first known that the earth stood still? Therefore, in your syllogism,5 the certainty of the middle term is drawn from the uncertainty of the conclusion. Thus you see how, and how badly, it is a paralogism… SIMP. It does not look that way to me at all. … Meanwhile, the result on shipboard confirms my opinion up to this point. SALV. You may well say "up to this point," since perhaps in a very short time it will look different. And to keep you no longer on tenterhooks, as the saying goes, tell me, Simplicio, do you feel convinced that the experiment on the ship squares so well with our purpose that one may reasonably believe that whatever is seen to occur there must also take place on the terrestrial globe? SIMP. So far , yes; and though you have brought up some trivial disparities, they do not seem to me of such moment as to suffice to shake my conviction. SALV. Rather, I hope that you will stick to it, and firmly insist that the result on the earth must correspond to that on the ship, so that when the latter is perceived to be prejudicial to your case you will not be tempted to change your mind. You say, then, that since when the ship stands still the rock falls to the foot of the mast, and when the ship is in motion it falls apart from there, then conversely, from the falling of the rock at the foot it is inferred that the ship stands still, and from its falling away it may be deduced that the ship is moving. And since what happens on the ship must likewise happen on the land, from the falling of the rock at the foot of the tower one necessarily infers the immobility of the terrestrial globe. Is that your argument? SIMP. That is exactly it, briefly stated, which makes it easy to understand.
An argument or form of reasoning in which two statements or premises are made and a logical conclusion is drawn from them. For example: All mammals are warm-blooded; whales are mammals (middle term); therefore, whales are warm-blooded (conclusion).
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SALV. Now tell me: If the stone dropped from the top of the mast when the ship was sailing rapidly fell in exactly the same place on the ship to which it fell when the ship was standing still, what use could you make of this falling with regard to determining whether the vessel stood still or moved? SIMP. Absolutely none; just as by the beating of the pulse, for instance, you cannot know whether a person is asleep or awake, since the pulse beats in the same manner in sleeping as in waking. SALV. Very good. Now, have you ever made this experiment of the ship? SIMP. I have never made it, but I certainly believe that the authorities who adduced it had carefully observed it. Besides, the cause of the difference is so exactly known that there is no room for doubt. SALV. You yourself are sufficient evidence that those authorities may have offered it without having performed it, for you take it as certain without having done it, and commit yourself to the good faith of their dictum. Similarly it not only may be, but must be that they did the same thing too – I mean, put faith in their predecessors, right on back without ever arriving at anyone who had performed it. For anyone who does will find that the experiment shows exactly the opposite of what is written ; that is, it will show that the stone always falls in the same place on the ship, whether the ship is standing still or moving with any speed you please. Therefore, the same cause holding good on the earth as on the ship, nothing can be inferred about the earth's motion or rest from the stone falling always perpendicularly to the foot of the tower . SIMP. If you had referred me to any other agency than experiment, I think that our dispute would not soon come to an end ; for this appears to me to be a thing so remote from human reason that there is no place in it for credulity or probability. SALV. For me there is, just the same. SIMP. So you have not made a hundred tests, or even one? And yet you so freely declare it to be certain? I shall retain my incredulity, and my own confidence that the experiment has been made by the most important authors who make use of it, and that it shows what they say it does. SALV. Without experiment, I am sure that the effect will happen as I tell you, because it must happen that way; and I might add that you yourself also know that it cannot happen otherwise, no matter how you may pretend not to know it – or give that impression. But I am so handy at picking people's brains that I shall make you confess this in spite of yourself. Sagredo is very quiet; it seemed to me that … he were about to say something.

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SAGR. I was about to say something or other, but the interest aroused in me by hearing you threaten Simplicio with this sort of violence in order the reveal the knowledge he is trying to hide has deprived me of any other desire; I beg you to make good your boast… SALV. For a final indication of the nullity of the experiments brought forth, this seems to me the place to show you a way to test them all very easily. Shut yourself up with some friend in the main cabin below decks on some large ship, and have with you there some flies, butterflies, and other small flying animals. Have a large bowl of water with some fish in it; hang up a bottle that empties drop by drop into a wide vessel beneath it. With the ship standing still, observe carefully how the little animals fly with equal speed to all sides of the cabin. The fish swim indifferently in all directions; the drops fall into the vessel beneath; and, in throwing something to your friend, you need throw it no more strongly in one direction than another, the distances being equal; jumping with your feet together, you pass equal spaces in every direction. When you have observed all these things carefully ( though there is no doubt that when the ship is standing still everything must happen in this way), have the ship proceed with any speed you like, so long as the motion is uniform and not fluctuating this way and that. You will discover not the least change in all the effects named, nor could you tell from any of them whether the ship was moving or standing still. In jumping, you will pass on the floor the same spaces as before, nor will you make larger jumps toward the stern than toward the prow even though the ship is moving quite rapidly, despite the fact that during the time that you are in the air the floor under you will be going in a direction opposite to your jump. In throwing something to your companion, you will need no more force to get it to him whether he is in the direction of the bow or the stern, with yourself situated opposite. The droplets will fall as before into the vessel beneath without dropping toward the stern, although while the drops are in the air the ship runs many spans. The fish in their water will swim toward the front of their bowl with no more effort than toward the back, and will go with equal ease to bait placed anywhere around the edges of the bowl. Finally the butterflies and flies will continue their flights indifferently toward every side, nor will it ever happen that they are concentrated toward the stern, as if tired out from keeping up with the course of the ship, from which they will have been separated during long intervals by keeping themselves in the air. And if smoke is made by burning some incense, it will be seen going up in the form of a little cloud, remaining still and moving no more toward one side than the other. The cause of all these correspondences of effects is the fact that the ship’s motion is common to all the things contained in it, and to the air also. That is why I said you should be below decks; for if this took place above in the open air, which would not follow the course of the ship, more or less noticeable differences would be seen in some of the effects noted. No doubt the smoke would fall as much behind as the air itself. The flies likewise, and the butterflies, held back by the air, would be unable to follow the ship’s motion if they were separated from it by a perceptible distance. But keeping themselves near it, they would follow it without effort or hindrance; for the ship, being an unbroken structure, carries with it a part of the nearby air. For a similar reason we sometimes, when riding horseback, see persistent flies and horseflies following our horses, flying now to one part of their bodies and now to another. But the difference would be small as regards the falling drops, and as to the jumping and the throwing it would be quite imperceptible.

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SAGR. Although it did not occur to me to put these observations to the test when I was voyaging, I am sure that they would take place in the way you describe. In confirmation of this I remember having often found myself in my cabin wondering whether the ship was moving or standing still; and sometimes at a whim I have supposed it going one way when its motion was the opposite. Still, I am satisfied so far, and convinced of the worthlessness of all experiments brought forth to prove the negative rather than the affirmative side as to the rotation of the earth.

Conclusion of Day Four (From the translation by Stillman Drake, U. Calif. Press, 1967.)
SAGR. …In the conversations of these four days we have, then, strong evidences in favor of the Copernican system, among which three have been shown to be very convincing – those taken from the stoppings and retrograde motions of the planets, and their approaches toward and recessions from the earth; second, from the revolution of the sun upon itself, and from what is to be observed in the sunspots; and third, from the ebbing and flowing of the ocean tides. SALV. To these there may perhaps be added a fourth … from the fixed stars, since by extremely accurate observations of these there may be discovered those minimal changes that Copernicus took to be imperceptible… SALV. Now, since it is time to put an end to our discourses, it remains for me to beg you that if later, in going over the things that I have brought out, you should meet with any difficulty or any question not completely resolved, you will excuse my deficiency because of the novelty of the concept and the limitations of my abilities; then because of the magnitude of the subject; and finally because I do not claim and have not claimed from others that assent which I myself do not give to this invention, which may very easily turn out to be a most foolish hallucination and a majestic paradox. To you, Sagredo, though during my arguments you have shown yourself satisfied with some of my ideas and have approved them highly, I say that I take this to have arisen partly from their novelty rather than from their certainty, and even more from your courteous wish to afford me by your assent that pleasure which one naturally feels at the approbation and praise of what is one's own. And as you have obligated me to you by your urbanity, so Simplicio has pleased me by his ingenuity. Indeed, I have become very fond of him for his constancy in sustaining so forcibly and so undauntedly the doctrines of his master. And I thank you, Sagredo, for your most courteous motivation, just as I ask pardon of Simplicio if I have offended him sometimes with my too heated and opinionated speech. Be sure that in this I have not been moved by any ulterior purpose, but only by that of giving you every opportunity to introduce lofty thoughts, that I might be the better informed. SIMP. You need not make any excuses; they are superfluous, and especially so to me, who, being accustomed to public debates, have heard disputants countless times not merely

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grow angry and get excited at each other, but even break out into insulting speech and sometimes come very close to blows. As to the discourses we have held, and especially this last one concerning the reasons for the ebbing and flowing of the ocean, I am really not entirely convinced; but from such feeble ideas of the matter as I have formed, I admit that your thoughts seem to me more ingenious than many others I have heard. I do not therefore consider them true and conclusive; indeed, keeping always before my mind's eye a most solid doctrinet that I once heard from a most eminent and learned person, and before which one must fall silent, I know that if asked whether God in His infinite power and wisdom could have conferred upon the watery element its observed reciprocating motion using some other means than moving its containing vessels, both of you would reply that He could have, and that He would have known how to do this in many ways which are unthinkable to our minds. From this I forthwith conclude that, this being so, it would be excessive boldness for anyone to limit and restrict the Divine power and wisdom to some particular fancy of his own. SALV. An admirable and angelic doctrine, and well in accord with another one, also Divine, which, while it grants to us the right to argue about the constitution of the universe (perhaps in order that the working of the human mind shall not be curtailed or made lazy) adds that we cannot discover the work of His hands. Let us, then, exercise these activities permitted to us and ordained by God, that we may recognize and thereby so much the more admire His greatness, however much less fit we may find ourselves to penetrate the profound depths of His infinite wisdom. SAGR. And let this be the final conclusion of our four days' arguments, after which if Salviati should desire to take some interval of rest, our continuing curiosity must grant that much to him. But this is on condition that when it is more convenient for him, he will return and satisfy our desires--mine in particular--regarding the problems set aside and noted down by me to submit to him at one or two further sessions, in accordance with our agreement. Above all, I shall be waiting impatiently to hear the elements of our Academician's new science of natural and con- strained local motions. Meanwhile, according to our custom, let us go and enjoy an hour of refreshment in the gondola that awaits us. End of the Fourth and Final Day

Date of last revision: 14July’04

Important Dates in the Life and Times of Galileo 1
1543 1564 1581 1589 1596 1609 1610 1613 1615 1616 1619 1623 1630 1632 1633 1642 Nicolaus Copernicus publishes his theory of a Sun-centered universe. Galileo is born in Pisa, Italy, February 18. Shakespeare is born in England, April 23. Galileo studies medicine at the University of Pisa, but prefers mathematics. Never earns a degree. Appointed Professor of Mathematics at the University of Padua. Attacks fellow professors as blind adherents of Aristotelian philosophy. René Descartes, French philosopher & mathematician and author of the Discourse (a CIE text), is born. Galileo improves the telescope (invented in 1608) and observes mountains on the Moon. Galileo discovers the Moons of Jupiter and phases of Venus. Describes his discoveries with the telescope in The Starry Messenger. Appointed chief mathematician and philosopher to the grand duke of Tuscany. Galileo’s friend Benedetto Castelli upsets the Grand Duchess Christina, by debating her about science Galileo writes his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina. Castelli. A copy of the latter is sent to Rome by one Galileo’s enemies, accompanied by denunciations. Galileo visits Rome to answer his enemies. An edict is issued against Copernican doctrine, and Galileo is told to abandon it. Galileo provokes Jesuit Father Orazio Grassi’s to publish his angry, offended Libra Astronomica. Galileo publishes The Assayer in reply to Libra Astronomica. Galileo visits Rome to obtain permission to publish his Dialogue. Galileo publishes his Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World. It angers Pope Urban the VIII. Galileo stands trial for heresy. He is publicly condemned and the Dialogue is prohibited. Galileo dies near Florence on January 8. Isaac Newton is born in England on December 25.

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From Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel, and Opinions and Discoveries of Galileo, by Stillman Drake.