The Afterlife of a Legend
OF THE many disputes surrounding Galileo, his alleged appropriation of the Dutch telescope is almost certainly the best known. This popular impression, which emerged in August 1609 in connection with della Porta's claim to priority, is somewhat surprising, given that Galileo never professed to have invented the telescope, and that, as this book has argued, his earliest concept of that instrument's design was inaccurate. The notion that led him, Sarpi, and others astray in their first encounter with the news from the Netherlands had a certain afterlife, for the two devices appear to have been confused elsewhere. And the features of a legendary mirror and an actual telescope were also conflated, even, or perhaps especially, by those perfectly capable of distinguishing them.
Posterity has reserved an unenviable perch for Giovanni Antonio Magini, who was in his day, until Galileo's rather sudden emer-