From Publishers Weekly
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.
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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
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 TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved