Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius

By William R. Shea; Mariano Artigas | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Galileo is the father of modern science and a major figure in the history of mankind. He belongs to the small group of thinkers who transformed Western culture, and his clash with ecclesiastical authorities is one of the most dramatic incidents in the long history of the relations between science and religion.

In 1633 the Roman Inquisition condemned Galileo for teaching that the earth moves. The trial was the outcome of a series of events that are described in this book and are usually referred to as the Galileo Affair. It extended over a period of several years, during which different popes, cardinals, and civil personalities entered the scene and made their exit. We can even speak of two Galileo trials, one in 1616 and the other in 1633, although only the second was a trial in the legal sense. The new science, which today pervades our entire life, was just emerging, and very few were able to realize what was happening at the time. Most people were not ready to abandon cherished traditional ideas for daring hypotheses that had yet to be proved.

Galileo made six long visits to Rome, totaling over five hundred days, during which he met the pope, high-ranking members of the Church and the nobility, as well as leading figures of the literary and scientific establishment. His career can be seen in a novel and fascinating way when studied from the vantage point of the city where he was most anxious to be known and approved. This is what our work does for the first time. Each chapter corresponds to one trip, thereby providing a clear framework for the main events of Galileo's life and allowing a fresh insight into the nature of the problems that he faced.

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