The Barberini Pope had always been superstitious, something Galileo's enemies in Rome tried to capitalise on. There were rumours of a horoscope that predicted imminent death for both Urban and his nephew Taddeo. The horoscope was said to have been cast by a Vallumbrosan monk, and some (perhaps knowing that Galileo had gone to school at Vallombrosa) claimed that it was actually the mathematician and astrologer Galileo who was responsible. Galileo understood the gravity of this and got one of his friends in Rome to intercede, a Florentine with the resounding name of Michelangelo Buonarroti, nephew of the great Renaissance master. Galileo extricated himself from the affair - but the danger of rousing the Pope's displeasure was emphasised by the fate of the Vallumbrosian monk he was arrested and died in prison awaiting his trial.
Medicine was far from being a poor career choice for a young man with ambitions. The discipline was particularly prestigious in Italy, whereas in most other European countries theology still dominated the universities. It was a comprehensive education. In those days subject boundaries were not clear cut - it is questionable if disciplines in the modern sense existed at all. Natural philosophy, logic and mathematics were medical subjects , as well as the very recently developed anatomy, with its spectacular dissections. Mathematics and astronomy were important for doctors principally because they had to be able to cast accurate horoscopes for their patients. They had little more in their armoury with which to fight serious disease.
It was to be Grand Duke Ferdinando's final glittering show. In January 1609 Galileo got a letter in Padua from the Grand Duchess Christina requesting him to cast a horoscope for Ferdinando, as he had become seriously ill. Obediently, Galileo gazed into the stars but without his usual perspicacity for, despite predicting many years' of happy life for the great man, Ferdinando died a mere three weeks later.
No study shows a statistically significant success rate in predicting through their horoscopes the futures or the personality traits of newborn children. There is no field of radio-astrology or X-ray astrology or gamma-ray astrology, taking account of the energetic new astronomical sources discovered in recent years.
Popular science magazines were, however, quick to dub it the 'death star'. During the mid-1980s the Nemesis story was very popular and controversial, and was widely covered by the popular press. One newspaper even described it as 'having everything but sex and the Royal Family'. It is rare for a major daily newspaper to write an editorial opinion on a scientific theory. However, in 1985 The New York Times wrote an editorial, 'Miscasting the Dinosaur's Horoscope', on the Nemesis theory. It rejected 'the alleged repeating pattern of mass extinctions' and suggested that 'astronomers should leave the astrologers the task of seeking the cause of earthly events in stars'.
The name Cosimo was often linked to the cosmos. Cosimo I had liked to represent himself as the fulfiller of Florence's predestined fate, guaranteed by the cosmos through the suitable horoscopes he ensured were cast. In this Medici mythology, Jupiter - both the god and the planet - played a leading role. Just as Jupiter was the chief god, the father of a divine dynasty, so Cosimo I was the founder of a line of grand dukes, a family of absolutist rulers raised high above everyday life. The message the stars had was a tribute to the Medicis. It was impossible to say more plainly that Galileo had found scientific evidence for the family's dynastic horoscope.
When Brahe died in 1601, his priceless archive of observations passed to Johannes Kepler, who had, towards the end, served as his chief assistant. At that time, there was no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology, and to supplement his mathematical study of empirical laws of planetary motion Kepler earned his living by casting horoscopes. As an unfortunate sign of the times, Kepler's mother was tried as a witch
The moons of Mars were invented by Johannes Kepler, the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion and no intellectual lightweight. But he lived in the sixteenth century, in a different intellectual climate from the present. He cast horoscopes for a living astronomy was his passion more than his occupation. His mother was tried as a witch. When Kepler learned of Galileo's discovery, with one of the first astronomical telescopes, of the four large moons of Jupiter, he immediately concluded that Mars had two moons. Why Because Mars was at an intermediate distance from the Sun, between Earth and Jupiter. It must obviously have an intermediate number of moons. The observations seemed to show Venus with no moons, Earth with one, and Jupiter with four (the actual number, we now know, is twelve). Kepler could have deduced either two or three moons for Mars. But bearing a lifelong passion for geometrical progressions, he chose two.
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