New Book about Galileo!

I’m pretty excited about this book and I haven’t even gotten into it yet!

I’ve read a lot about Galileo over the years.  This looks good.  I like that “in context” part.  The book doesn’t just deal with issues, but about the personalities and competing interests of the day.

Galileo Revisited: The Galileo Affair in Context by Paschal Scotti


Inevitably people who attack the Church will bring up Galileo.  When the issue of Faith and Science comes up, Galileo’s name is soon to follow. However, they usually have no idea what really happened with him.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Eric says:

    Ordered it!

  2. Knight from 13904 says:

    I’m also very interested in Galileo. Has anyone else seen the YouTube video Robert Sungenis did about Galileo which is a continuation of his book?
    Have been searching web on the topic of Galileo’s conversion or reversion a few years before his death. Anyone else out there looking into this? If so, what have you found?

  3. Boniface says:

    “Science vs religion” (as in vs the Catholic Church) is 100% fake history, and a notion made up almost entirely in the 19th century by hateful, bigoted polemicists pretending to be historians for the express purpose of silencing the Christian perspective on contemporary philosophical/moral questions.

    Another great and fairly new (2015) book is by Dr Christopher Graney. He makes it clear the whole Galileo affair was science vs science. But – in any case -the familiar Galileo “story” is sheer caricature of the actual events.

  4. Vincent says:

    And isn’t helped by the Catholic Church apologising for the way he was treated.

    Even my secular university lecturers were extremely clear that the whole thing had been made up, but the “popular” version of history is difficult to control. The good thing is that with scholars continually pointing out how wrong the story about Galileo has been, it will eventually work its way into the “Horrible Histories” type of popular history… Eventually…

  5. GregB says:

    There are a series of articles online that covers the Galileo controversy in some detail. The series is titled “The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown.” The URL for the table of contents is:
    The author of these articles gives a very lively presentation of the era.

  6. jaykay says:

    If I ever hear some (public house) polemicist insulting me again with “eppur, si muove” I’ll recommend that book, Father. Not that they’d listen, still less access it. But… one tries. Increasingly difficult these days.

    Sancte Roberte Bellarmine, ora pro nobis.

  7. Kerry says:

    At the Institute of Catholic Culture, Christopher Check’s ‘Galileo on Trial’ is excellent. All the nonsense is put to a deep six.

  8. iamlucky13 says:

    I’m interested in a detailed and contextual history of his controversy, too. The whole matter is a lot more complex than the popular myth portrays, which should have been easy to realize since Copernicus got along without too much trouble before Galileo was even born.

    What is probably most important to realize is it was not simply a matter of Galileo vs. the Church. It was Galileo vs. basically the whole world.

    EVERYBODY “knew” from simple observation when they walked outside every morning that the sun revolved around the earth. The only people who doubted this were the smarty-pants academics with all their mumbo jumbo about “wandering stars”, “epicycles”, and other such concepts, and few of them could even agree on a better theory.

    Among those smarty-pants academics, many accounts suggest Galileo was particularly pompous, with little tolerance for those who doubted his ideas – the sort of person it’s hard to admit is right, even if what he is saying makes sense; Sheldon Cooper in the 17th century.

    And since what he was saying not only didn’t make sense to most people, but amounted to a claim that their most basic understanding of the world around them was completely upside down, he was a lightning rod for controversy.

    In an era when actions like refusing to endorse the king’s divorce could get you beheaded, I can only imagine a person as polarizing as Galileo actually had some influential allies both within the Church and on the political side of things in order for matters not to have escalated even further.

  9. gracie says:

    “When the issue of Faith and Science comes up, Galileo’s name is sure to follow.”

    These are the same people who deny the science of biology which shows there are only two sexes.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Sheldon Cooper never attempted to make pontifical statements about the Bible, or tried to tell people that the science was settled (by him alone) without providing any data. He did bad science, and his explanation of stuff was incorrect; posterity has been kinder to his reputation than he was.

    But yeah, look at the whole “Great Ptolemaic Smackdown” for more details.

  11. jaykay says:

    iamlucky13:” I can only imagine a person as polarizing as Galileo actually had some influential allies both within the Church and on the political side of things… ”

    Yes, he did indeed, among his earlier supporters being Cdl. (Saint) Roberto Bellarmine. His fault was that he put forward a theory, but stated it as truth, that couldn’t actually have been proved, given the state of the knowledge available at the time. Therefore it was only a theory, hypothesis, whatever. It was only actually proved later in that century by Newton. And he was only under a form of house arrest. He seems to have been somewhat of a “difficult” character. Then again, so was Newton.

    Try telling that to the current zeitgeist. And this – not many years later Newton’s country was seized by the fantasy of the “Popish Plot”, and many innocents were brutally done to death.. hanged, drawn and quartered (including the Archbishop of Armagh, St. Oliver Plunkett). Ahhhh yes, the “Enlightenment”. Don’t yah just lurve it.

  12. mibethda says:

    The proponents of the secular canonization of Galileo ignore the fact that his theory of the motion of heavenly bodies was severely flawed in many respects, not the least of which was his insistence that all of the bodies circled the sun in circular orbits rather than elliptical orbits as he was urged by Kepler to accept. These flaws rendered his theory easily vulnerable to attacks by the then dominant school of ptolemeic

  13. mibethda says:

    The proponents of the secular canonization of Galileo ignore the fact that his theory of the motion of heavenly bodies was severely flawed in many respects, not the least of which was his insistence that all of the bodies circled the sun in circular orbits rather than elliptical orbits as he was urged by Kepler to accept. These flaws rendered his theory easily vulnerable to attacks by the then dominant school of ptolemaic astronomy.His heliocentric theory, as he propounded it, could not explain the observed motion of the various bodies without relying upon assumptions which we now know are incorrect and which were challenged in his own day. (sorry, but my earlier post was the result of accidentally hitting the post button)

  14. Grant M says:

    Sungenis does complicate things by arguing simply for geocentrism. I must admit I have not watched the video, though I have read John C Wright’s refutation.

  15. GregB says:

    I had posted earlier about the online articles about Galileo. Any more I am increasingly concerned about how little mention Kepler gets for his work. Kepler tends to get a raw deal from some science popularizers. It is my understanding that it took Kepler several years to do the manual calculations to resolve the orbit of the planet Mars, which, of course, proved to be elliptical. The parameters that are used to describe orbits are called Keplerian elements. Kepler used the then fresh new astronomical observations of Tycho Brahe to do his calculations with. Tycho had proposed his own model called the Tychonic system, a geo-heliocentric hybrid.
    I’m not sure how many people know that Newton was born in the same year that Galileo died. So there was no Newtonian physics at the time of Galileo.
    The problem with histories of science is that we forget how much of our modern science and technology was developed after the events that are covered in these histories. If you don’t take this into consideration it is hard to have a realistic view of what the people of the era actually knew at the time.

  16. Grant M says:

    “The Copernicus model had some 44 epicycles to retain the circular motions, but put the Sun at the center of the system, and had the Earth move around it….
    Kepler’s model reduced the complexity of Copernicus to three laws of astronomical motion by eliminating circular orbits and positing elliptical orbits.
    Newton’s three laws of motion were even simpler, since all of the Kepler could be deduced from them, but also ballistics, billiards, the fall of apples, the motions of eddies, and all inelastic collisions.”

    From Wright’s essay that I referred to above.

  17. The Egyptian says:

    I bet he was a hand full
    Quote the sainted Al Gore, ” the science is settled”
    Just like Galileo in his day as the hypothesis becomes harder to defend the shriller the protagonist becomes. History does not repeat itself, it rhymes

  18. whitewings says:

    Gracie, Science doesn’t seem too sure these days about the two sexes…

  19. un-ionized says:

    GreB, Tycho of the beautiful nose is the unsung hero of all this. How many scientists have “only” made the careful observations that other people used to make great advances? (I’m one, though I am no Tycho and my nose is plain).

  20. gracie says:


    Deviations from the norm don’t disprove the norm. I realize that saying:

    “God created man in His image,
    in the divine image He created him;
    male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1: 27

    makes some people’s skin crawl because it’s “not science” but anomalies in themselves do not disprove what has been revealed in Scripture.

  21. Ben Kenobi says:

    Actually it is Bessel who proved it, not Newton. Heliocentrism requires observational evidence of the Earth actually moving through space, and presumes the existence of stellar parallax, through the Earth’s rotation showing up against the backdrop of the stars.

    He was able to do so by repeating what Tycho had done many years previous, compiling an extremely accurate celestial map, and pinpointing the location of stars. His observations were so accurate that he correctly deduced the existence of Sirius B, the small white dwarf companion to Sirius due to perturbations in the motion of Sirius. He also established the principles of trigonometric parallax.

  22. [gracie and] whitewings… whether a given person is a Man or a Woman is a question of their Natural Form: is the form of that person ordered, in the ordinary way, to conceiving and bearing a child? then that person is a Woman; if not, is the form of that person ordered, in the ordinary way, to begetting a child? then that person is a Man. One needn’t invoke karyotypes or deeply examine our feelings to define it. The person described in the linked story is therefore Definitely a Woman, chromosomal mosaicism notwithstanding. The Question that Fascinates ME is: since that living human seems to have once been two living bodies, she also started out as two souls… so, now, do those souls remain distinct? Or were they joined in the way the bodies seem to have been joined? Fascinating… But I’m happy to wait for Heaven to find out, if I remember to wonder that long.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    Until the early twentieth century, Medieval science was considered an oxymoron. The 13 volume work of the famous physicist/historian, Pierre Duhem (which has, still, not been completely translated) established the background in which Galileo worked. As Duhem points out, Galileo was not the first person to introduce the notion of impulse (from the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):

    “From 1906 to 1913, Duhem delved deeply into his favorite guide for the recovery of the past, the scientific notebooks of Leonardo de Vinci. He published a series of essays uncovering de Vinci’s medieval sources and their influences on the moderns. The third volume of Duhem’s Etudes sur Léonard de Vinci gained a new subtitle, Les précurseurs parisiens de Galilée, announcing Duhem’s bold new thesis that even the works of Galileo had a medieval heritage; reviewing his historical accomplishments, Duhem summarized them as follows:

    When we see the science of Galileo triumph over the stubborn Peripatetic philosophy of somebody like Cremonini, we believe, since we are ill-informed about the history of human thought, that we are witness to the victory of modern, young science over medieval philosophy, so obstinate in its mechanical repetition. In truth, we are contemplating the well-paved triumph of the science born at Paris during the fourteenth century over the doctrines of Aristotle and Averroes, restored into repute by the Italian Renaissance. (1917, 162; 1996, 193.)
    Duhem presented Galilean dynamics as a continuous development out of medieval dynamics. He recovered the late medieval theory of impetus, tracing it from John Philoponus’ criticism of Aristotle to its mature statements in the fourteenth century works of John Buridan and Nicole Oresme: “The role that impetus played in Buridan’s dynamics is exactly the one that Galileo attributed to impeto or momento, Descartes to ‘quantity of motion,’ and Leibniz finally to vis viva. So exact is this correspondence that, in order to exhibit Galileo’s dynamics, Torricelli, in his Lezioni accademiche, often took up Buridan’s reasons and almost his exact words” (1917, 163–62; 1996, 194). Duhem then sketched the extension of impetus theory from terrestrial dynamics to the motions of the heavens and earth:

    Nicole Oresme attributed to the earth a natural impetus similar to the one Buridan attributed to the celestial orbs. In order to account for the vertical fall of weights, he allowed that one must compose this impetus by which the mobile rotates around the earth with the impetus engendered by weight. The principle he distinctly formulated was only obscurely indicated by Copernicus and merely repeated by Giordano Bruno. Galileo used geometry to derive the consequences of that principle, but without correcting the incorrect form of the law of inertia implied in it. (1917, 166; 1996, 196.)
    Duhem’s essays on Leonardo de Vinci concluded with a speculation about the means for the transmission of medieval ideas to modern science. Since the studies of Buridan and Oresme had remained in large part in manuscript, Duhem suggested that Albert of Saxony, whose works were printed and reprinted during the sixteenth century, was the likely link to Galileo. Duhem’s key to understanding the transmission of medieval science was Galileo’s use of the phrase Doctores Parisienses, a conventional label denoting Buridan and Oresme, among others. Based on evidence including references to certain unusual doctrines and the particular order in which the questions were arranged, Duhem conjectured that Galileo had consulted George Lokert’s compilation of Albert of Saxony, Themo Judaeus, and others, and the works of the Dominican Domingo de Soto (1906–13, III.582–83). Duhem’s conjecture has been revised and expanded upon: The means of transmission has been made clearer because of the labor of A. C. Crombie, Adriano Carugo, and William Wallace.

    In the three years before his death in 1916, Duhem wrote Le Système du monde, but did not succeed in finishing it. He intended it as a twelve-volume work on the history of cosmological doctrines, ending with Copernicus. He completed nine volumes, the first five being published from 1914 to 1919, and the next four having to wait until the 1950s; a tenth, incomplete volume was also published then. These tomes impart an enormous amount of information about medieval astronomy, astrology, tidal theory, and geostatics, again presenting many sources for the first time in the modern era. They also trace developments in doctrines associated with such concepts as infinity, place, time, void, and the plurality or unity of the world. Duhem intended to write a 300-page summary of his results after he was done with the Le Système du monde; he did not have the time to accomplish what would have surely been an amazing volume.”

    I hope that Duhem’s work gets translated. It could be a standard reference in the history of science .

    The Chicken

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