Cover image for Galileo in Rome : the rise and fall of a troublesome genius
Galileo in Rome : the rise and fall of a troublesome genius
Shea, William R.
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New York : Oxford University Press, [2003]

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xi, 226 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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QB36.G2 S54 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Galileo's trial by the Inquisition is one of the most dramatic incidents in the history of science and religion. Today, we tend to see this event in black and white--Galileo all white, the Church all black. Galileo in Rome presents a much more nuanced account of Galileo's relationship withRome. The book offers a fascinating account of the six trips Galileo made to Rome, from his first visit at age 23, as an unemployed mathematician, to his final fateful journey to face the Inquisition. The authors reveal why the theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun, set forth in Galileo'sDialogue, stirred a hornet's nest of theological issues, and they argue that, despite these issues, the Church might have accepted Copernicus if there had been solid proof. More interesting, they show how Galileo dug his own grave. To get the imprimatur, he brought political pressure to bear on theRoman Censor. He disobeyed a Church order not to teach the heliocentric theory. And he had a character named Simplicio (which in Italian sounds like simpleton) raise the same objections to heliocentrism that the Pope had raised with Galileo. The authors show that throughout the trial, until thefinal sentence and abjuration, the Church treated Galileo with great deference, and once he was declared guilty commuted his sentence to house arrest. Here then is a unique look at the life of Galileo as well as a strikingly different view of an event that has come to epitomize the Church's supposed antagonism toward science.

Author Notes

William R. Shea graduated from the University of Cambridge. He taught at the University of Ottawa, McGill University, and the University of Strasbourg before joining the faculty at the University of Padua in 2003. He is the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books including Galileo's Intellectual Revolution and The Magic of Numbers and Motion: The Scientific Career of René Descartes. His book Designing Experiments and Games of Chance: The Unconventional Science of Blaise Pascal won the Library Association Award as one of the outstanding academic books of 2003.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Galileo's story has always been read as a cautionary tale about religious authority suffocating science. However, the epic episode seems less symbolically clear-cut when examined closely. This work (following Galileo's Mistake 0 by Wade Rowland BKL Ag 03) promotes the idea that Galileo himself contributed to his fate. Because he was well connected--the pope who brought the Inquisition down on his head, Urban VIII, was a personal friend--Galileo knew how the powers-that-be felt about his championing of Copernicus. Structuring their narrative around the several journeys Galileo made from Florence to Rome, Shea and Artigas identify numerous friendly suggestions given to him by supporters to tone things down. Galileo's mockery of his opponents made enemies of them, but they did have ammunition in that, as Rowland and these authors point out, two items in Galileo's scheme (concerning tides and "circular" orbits) are not true. In recounting the actual people with whom Galileo fenced, as well as the theological doctrines involved, the authors demythologize the man. Their criticism makes Galileo as interesting a figure as ever. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the best-known episodes in the history of science is Galileo's run-in with the Catholic Church, which left him under house arrest and his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems on the Church's Index of Prohibited Books. Though conventional wisdom dictates that the controversy was simply a clash between the traditional doctrine that the Sun revolved around Earth and Galileo's heliocentric theory, Shea, a historian of science at the University of Padua, and Artigas, a philosopher of science at the University of Navarra and an ordained Catholic priest, argue that there was a lot more going on than simply an intellectual disagreement. Drawing on a wealth of letters and archives, the authors construct a nuanced portrait of the complex web of political and religious institutional forces that constituted 17th-century Rome, showing that the trial of Galileo was as much the product of tension between the pope and the grand duke of Tuscany (Galileo's patron) and of Galileo's arrogance when dealing with Jesuit astronomers as it was a result of the oppressive Inquisition. Much like the Medici court that Mario Biagioli portrayed in Galileo, Courtier, the Rome that emerges here is one of political in-fighting, misunderstandings, deceit, closed-door machinations and greed, dominated by a church that is as much political as theological. While engaging and accessible (if at moments awkwardly written), this is less a general biography than a detailed study of Galileo's six visits to Rome and best suited to readers looking for a new understanding of an oft-told and familiar story. 40 photos and illus. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Recently, several scholars have aimed to clarify the myth that Galileo's trial for heresy was a clear conflict between science and religion. For instance, Wade Rowland's Galileo's Mistake argues that the trial was rooted in political issues and questions of philosophical understandings of the world. In Galileo in Rome, Shea, an eminent historian of science, and Artigas, an acclaimed historian, physicist and Catholic priest, also note the political situation but add that Galileo's own occasionally abrasive personality was a factor in his heresy conviction (the scientist disobeyed a order from the Catholic Church not to teach the theory that Earth revolves around the sun)-an argument also made in Mario Biagioli's scholarly Galileo Courtier. In their very readable, clear, and concise accounting of Galileo's life and trial, the authors concentrate on the six visits that Galileo made to Rome, exploring what happened during those visits, the theological and political reasons behind them, and their ramifications. Of the three Galileo titles, this is the most accessible for general readers and is highly recommended for academic and public library collections.-Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Health Sciience Lib., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Shea (Univ. of Padua, Italy) and Artigas (Univ. of Navarra, Spain) provide interesting insight into the relationship between science and religion during the 17th century. Shea is a historian of science, and Artigas, a Catholic priest, is a physicist and philosopher of science. Galileo wanted the approval of the Catholic Church so that his ideas would gain acceptance in the rest of society; the authors used Galileo's six travels to Rome over a period of 46 years as the framework for the text. They dig deep into primary source documents and letters to show that Galileo had brilliant insight into many political, theological and scientific fronts, but they also show his missteps. For example, in describing Galileo's response to a letter from Ludovico delle Colombe, they write, "Galileo's sarcasm could be amusing but also dangerous. He laughed delle Colombe off the stage, but what was really required was a scientific answer." The trial of Galileo may be an often-told story, but this book provides a focused geographic perspective not found in other sources. A welcome addition to any academic library. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. R. Kraus University of Denver

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. vii
Introductionp. ix
Chapter 1 Job Hunting and the Path to Rome (First Trip: 1587)p. 1
Chapter 2 The Door of Fame Springs Open (Second Trip: 29 March-4 June 1611)p. 19
Chapter 3 Roman Clouds (Third Trip: 10 December 1615-4 June 1616)p. 49
Chapter 4 Roman Sunshine (Fourth Trip: 23 April-16 June 1624)p. 94
Chapter 5 Star-Crossed Heavens (Fifth Trip: 3 May-26 June 1630)p. 123
Chapter 6 Foul Weather in Rome (Sixth Trip: 13 February-6 July 1633)p. 158
Referencesp. 201
Photo Creditsp. 212
Selected Bibliographyp. 215
Indexp. 217