Myths About the Galileo Case

Myths About the Galileo Case

This April is the 390th anniversary of the well-known Galileo trial, commenced in Rome in 1633 and held over three periods between April 12 and May 10, along with his verdict delivered on June 22. The Galileo case has grow to be an unlucky image of the alleged conflict between faith and science. For many, it’s an emblem of the Church’s “hostility” to scientific progress.

Galileo, after all, is understood for promulgating the Copernican system that the earth and planets rotate across the solar, which on the time was a controversial concept. The framing of this case as a battle between faith and science is woefully simplistic, and the portrayal of the Church as “anti-science” is totally unfounded. Astronomers who questioned Galileo’s theories did so not due to spiritual bias, however as a result of they weren’t satisfied of the science behind heliocentrism. The Church, following the scientific consensus of the day, thought of the full revolutionizing of cosmology to be rash and was hesitant to embrace the brand new theories except they could possibly be extra conclusively demonstrated.

The story of Galileo’s battle with the Church is a protracted and complicated one which we should not have the house to cowl right here. Rather, we will take a look at widespread factors of misinformation which are repeated about Galileo. The Galileo story has given rise to many persistent myths—tales with no grounding in historical past serving solely to sensationalize the story to make the Church’s perspective in the direction of Galileo appear a lot harsher than it was.

Myth 1: Cardinals Were Afraid to Look Through Galileo’s Telescope

In 1611, Galileo got here to Rome and set his new telescope up within the gardens of Cardinal Barberini on the Quirinal Hill. Here he demonstrated the existence of sunspots, craters on the moon, satellites round Jupiter, and different heavenly marvels hitherto unknown.

There is a persistent legend that one skeptical cardinal, when requested to look by means of the telescope, refused, saying, “I’m afraid of what I’d see!” The implication right here is that the cardinal was keen to disregard scientific fact in an effort to keep spiritual orthodoxy.

There isn’t any proof that anybody refused to look by means of Galileo’s telescope when supplied the prospect. The delusion appears to be primarily based on two quotes, one from thinker Cesare Cremonini, the opposite from Galileo himself.

Cremonini had regarded by means of earlier variations of the telescope and located the imaginative and prescient blurry—so blurred, actually, that the expertise left him with a headache. As one of many few males in Europe who had really regarded by means of a telescope on the time, Cremonini was bombarded with questions on Galileo’s claims. Cremonini was exasperated by the chatter in regards to the telescope and mentioned, “I don’t want to approve of claims about which I should not have any data, and issues about which I’ve not seen”—in different phrases, although he had regarded by means of the telescope, he may neither verify nor deny what Galileo claimed. “To observe by means of these glasses provides me a headache,” he continued. “Enough! I don’t wish to hear something extra about this.”[1] Cremonini was not refusing to look by means of Galileo’s telescope; he was expressing frustration on the variety of inquiries he was receiving on the matter and was bored with speaking about it.

The second pertinent quote is from Galileo himself. After Galileo introduced the invention of moons round Jupiter, one other thinker—Giulio Libri of Pisa—tried to see them for himself. However, as Libri used an inferior telescope, he was unable to look at them. When Libri died shortly afterward, Galileo sarcastically mentioned, “Never having wished to see [the moons of Jupiter] on earth, maybe he’ll see them on the best way to heaven.”[2] The assertion is extremely unfair to Libri. There isn’t any proof he didn’t wish to see the moons of Jupiter; he tried to see them however merely couldn’t as a result of his telescope was not so good as Galileo’s.

No one we all know of declined to look by means of the telescope, even when they did argue about what they noticed.

Myth 2: Galileo Was Tortured by the Inquisition

Ever for the reason that time of Galileo there have been tales that the astronomer was tortured and even blinded by the Inquisition. Galileo was not tortured, nevertheless, and was definitely not blinded.

During his trial, on June 21, Galileo was reminded by the Inquisitors that the regulation permitted them to make use of torture to acquire a confession. This was not essential, nevertheless, as Galileo submitted to the Church’s judgment voluntarily and agreed to no matter penance was imposed. This was the one time torture was ever talked about throughout his trial.

Regarding Galileo being blinded, he did actually go blind round 1637, 4 years after the trial and 5 years earlier than his loss of life. Galileo’s blindness in outdated age might have contributed to the legend that he was blinded by the Inquisition.

Galileo was not bodily harmed in any means throughout his trial or afterward.

Myth 3: Galileo Was Condemned as a Heretic

Most individuals assume that Galileo was condemned as a heretic for instructing that the earth was not the middle of the photo voltaic system. This is unfaithful. Copernicanism was not thought of a heresy per se; it was thought of an unproven scientific concept that the Church prohibited from being taught as reality till additional proof was forthcoming proving it to be so. Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-1644) had even informed Galileo that he was effective with the latter instructing Copernicanism as long as it was taught as a speculation and never actuality. It was Galileo’s disregard for this directive—and the general public insults leveled on the pope in his ebook Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—that bought Galileo in hassle.

In the top, the Inquisition didn’t condemn Galileo as a heretic, however quite judged him “suspected of heresy,” which was a significantly lesser judgment than heretic. Like Copernicus earlier than him, Galileo died in union with the Church; actually, the pope despatched an envoy to present him a particular blessing as he lay dying. Galileo was buried with the total rites of the Church within the church of Sante Croce in Florence.

Myth 4: Galileo Said, “And Yet It Moves!”

One of essentially the most oft repeated myths about Galileo is that, after being pressured to abjure Copernicanism by the Inquisition, he muttered the phrase Eppur si muove! (“And but it strikes!”), a reference to the movement of the earth within the Copernican system.

There isn’t any proof Galileo ever uttered this. The phrase isn’t present in any work of Galileo, nor attested by anybody who knew him or any eyewitnesses to his trial. Nor do the earliest biographies written after Galileo’s loss of life point out it. It isn’t attested till 1757 in a ebook by Giuseppe Baretti known as Italian Library. Baretti wrote:

The second he was set at liberty, he regarded as much as the sky and all the way down to the bottom, and, stamping along with his foot, in a contemplative temper, mentioned, Eppur si muove, that’s, nonetheless it strikes, that means the Earth.[3]

It is unclear the place Baretti bought his info, however the ebook is filled with many different falsehoods (that Galileo was imprisoned for six years by the Inquisition, that he was tortured, and so forth). Printed, because it was, 125 years after the trial, this might hardly have been first-hand info. It was seemingly a literary embellishment on the a part of Baretti.

The phrase was additionally found on a portrait of Galileo that some attribute to the seventeenth century Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, however there’s appreciable controversy in regards to the work, with many claiming it dates from the nineteenth century.

Whatever the origin of the phrase, there isn’t a proof it was uttered by Galileo.

Myth 5: Galileo Was Imprisoned

The Murillo portray talked about above depicts Galileo in a dank jail cell, a captive of the merciless Inquisition.

Galileo was by no means imprisoned by the Inquisition, nevertheless. During his trial he was lodged in spacious flats in Rome. It is true that his preliminary trial sentence was life imprisonment, however this was instantly commuted to deal with arrest with the order to hope the penitential psalms as soon as per week for 3 years.

Galileo spent the remainder of his life in Florence beneath home arrest, however we should always not think about this as analogous to deal with arrest right now, the place an offender should actually keep indoors banded with an digital tether. Galileo lived in an expensive villa in Florence, so he was definitely not subsisting in a poor state. Furthermore, he was not prohibited from transferring about his hometown, staying with mates, or residing a standard life. “House arrest” basically meant he was to not go away Florence. Given that Galileo was already aged (he was 69 years outdated on the time of his trial), how a lot touring overseas did he actually intend to do anyway?


The battle between Galileo and the Church was unlucky. The Church was ever Europe’s most devoted patron of science; that it ought to have a dispute with one in every of Europe’s most sensible scientists is tragic. But we’d like not make extra of the affair than it was. Galileo was no sufferer of clerical authoritarianism, nor was his concept resisted due to ignorant spiritual fundamentalism. The fact of the Galileo case is considerably much less thrilling than we now have been led to consider.

[1] James Hannam, The Genesis of Science (Washington D.C: Regnery Publishing, 2011), 318

[2] Ibid, 319

[3] Giuseppe Baretti, The Italian Library, in The Strand (London, 1757), pg. 52

Image: Galileo Before the Holy Office by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury, 1847. Public area.



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