|The Earth Moves
Galileo and the Roman Inquisition
verworven via: Krakau
|What really happened during Galileo’s momentous 1632 trial for heresy? Galileo was a devout Catholic, and the Inquisition made no factual dispute of his claims. Drawing on his intimate knowledge of Italian and Renaissance history, Dan Hofstadter vividly recounts the proceedings and just what was at stake. He sorts through intricate webs of patronage, examines the technology of Galileo’s instruments, and reviews the cultural climate of that contentious era to explain why Galileo incurred such strident opposition. Galileo’s telescope’s 1.5 cm eyepiece made the device hard to use, leading some who tried it to denounce it as a scam. His descriptions of the heavens upset centuries of traditional understanding, from Dante’s perfect image of the moon to the carefully organized measurements of astrology.
Hofstadter’s account is one of mighty egos: Galileo the obstinate truth seeker on the one hand, and his powerful detractors—among them, Pope Urban VIII—on the other. Ironically, the pope was a patron of the arts and sciences, and even a good friend of Galileo. But Hofstadter suggests that, like many others, the pope simply could not see—or refused to see—the truth that we do not occupy the center of the universe.