The literature on Galileo is enormous and fast-growing. It is also pretty diverse: Volker R. Remmert lists eleven different trends in modern Galilean research. Although my book is based on many sources, I did not want, nor was I able, to do justice to this plethora of interpretations. Instead, I have tried to draw a clear and complete picture of Galileo, his environment and his destiny. This, of course, has involved a number of choices along the way.
The following have had a strong influence on the background to my work:
Arthur Koestler's masterful, vivid and ever so slightly malicious portrait of Galileo in The Sleepwalkers. Half science, half novel, it needs a lot of amplification and correction, particularly in the light of all the new research that has been done in the years - more than forty of them - since Koestler wrote the book. That aside, it is the account that best whets the appetite for Galileo the man, and the role his personality played in his own destiny and that of his work.
Where Galileo's scientific contribution is concerned, I have largely followed Stillman Drake's elegant reconstructions, which place his fundamental discoveries on the theory of motion in the Paduan period. Drake is an irrepressible Galileo admirer and apologist but, as far as a layman can judge, his up-rating of Galileo as an experimental physicist is solidly supported by modern research.
In the past twenty years two books have appeared that provide wholly new interpretations of Galileo's career and destiny. Mario Biaglioli's Galileo, Courtier deals with the relationship that Galileo and the science of his age had with the complicated social structure surrounding the Church, the universities and the nobility - what we might call the patronage culture. Biagioli has had an influence on almost everything written on Galileo over the past few years. There are many traces of him in my work as well.
Pietro Redondi's Galileo, Heretic re-interprets the entire case, indeed even the course of events from early in the 1620s, in a sensationally novel way. He believes it was Galileo's atomism as formulated - almost in passing -in The Assayer, that was the real cause of Galileo's downfall, because that threatened to contravene the doctrine of transubstantiation. (Grassi's book from 1626, p. 160, would in that case take on an entirely different meaning.) Under these circumstances the court case of 1633 would appear to be some kind of manoeuvre to save Galileo from a more dangerous charge and certain conviction as a heretic. If Redondi is right, the history of Galileo's renunciation and his entire relationship with the Church, must be rewritten. However, Redondi has found little support amongst professional historians of science, and I have chosen not to base my work on his interpretation.
My account of Galileo's relationship with the Church relies on many sources, but most of all on Annibale Fantoli's Galileo - For Copernicanism and for the Church. This discerning and balanced exposition is part of the Vatican's new series of Galileo studies (Studi Galileiani), and must of course be read as such, but Fantoli's well documented and sober book provides a summary of what we now know took place on the stage and behind the scenes in the long, sad story of the Catholic Church's treatment of Galileo.
By far the most controversial point in the entire "Galileo case" is the memorandum from Cardinal Segizzi, the one containing the famous words Nec quovis modo teneat, doceat aut defendat. Until very recently it has been usual to assume that the document was a forgery, produced in 1632, perhaps directly at the behest of Urban VIII, to ensure that Galileo was found guilty. However, there seems little doubt that the document is genuine (see Fantoli, pp. 219-222). The details of what actually happened at the meeting with Bellarmine and Segizzi on 26 February 1616, which resulted in two different memoranda, is uncertain. My account follows Fantoli.
The use of the words "science" and "scientist" in my book may well be anachronistic. The terms should have been "natural philosophy" and "philosopher". But as we now regard much of Galileo's work as pioneering in that area of human cognitive experimentation we call "science", I considered that this would make the reading easier.
Galileo and his contemporaries themselves used the term "Italy". On the whole I have tried to avoid the word, however, and instead used "the Italian mainland", "the Italian states" etc., to avoid associations with the current Italian national state. The reason for this is that Italy's former division into lesser states and principalities plays a vital role in understanding the age, and the fate of Galileo.
The great ecclesiastical meeting which fired the starting gun for the Counter-Reformation was often called the Tridentine Council. However, Trento is the modern name for the town where the meeting was held, and I have therefore chosen to use "the Council of Trent" which accords with modern historical usage as far as I am aware.
In the main I have indulged myself in the use of the antiquated term "specific gravity" instead of "mass density", simply because I believe it to be better known.
The quotations from the Bible are from the King James version.
My thanks for help with this book go first and foremost to my editors, the tireless Hans Petter Bakketeig and Arne Sundland at Gyldendal Doku-mentar, thereafter to everyone else with whom I have had conversations and discussions. Thanks also to the staff of Fredrikstad Library who have assisted me with many special book requests, to the helpful staff at the Center for vetenskapshistoria in Stockholm and to Daniela Pozzi of the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza in Florence. Any misunderstandings or misinterpretations in this book, are not the fault of these kind helpers, but wholly and completely my own.
Pius IV de' Medici (1559-1565)
Pius V Ghislieri (1566-1572)
Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585)
Sixtus V Peretti (1585-1590)
Urban VII Castagna (1590)
Gregory XIV Sfondrati (1590-1591)
Innocent IX Fachinetti (1591)
Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592-1605)
Leo XI de' Medici (1605)
Paul VBorghese (1605-1621)
Urban VIIIBarberini (1623-1644) (...)
John Paul II Wojtyla (1978-)
Popes mentioned in the text are italicised.
Grand Dukes of Tuscany
Cosimo I Francesco Ferdinando I Cosimo II Ferdinando II Cosimo III Gian Gastone
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