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Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius Hardcover – September 25, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

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 Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1St Edition edition (September 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195165985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195165982
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,611,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding the Galileo affair as an historical event and not simply as the stereotype of obscurantist religion fearing the truths of science. Built around Galileo's six trips to Rome, the authors give a lucid explanation of Galileo's life and work. Galileo's is ever more successful as a scientist and ever more eager to vanquish those who disagreed with him.
While clearly a scientific genius, he claimed theories to be true without ever having physical proof. He insisted, falsely, that the tides were caused by the earth's rotation and then used the fact of the tides to argue for the Copernican thesis that the earth and not the heavens was in motion. When certain theologians objected that his theory seemed contrary to scripture, he entered, with no expertise, into a theological discussion on the proper mode of interpreting scripture. Unfortunately this intemperance in debate led finally to Galileo's "trial" and house arrest.
At the same time, the theologians are presented as a mixed lot, some opposing Galileo with an irrational zeal, others soberly weighing the evidence he proposed and so insisting that he treat his theory as a hypothesis and not as proven fact. The authors present the Church's position with some sympathy: it seemed imprudent to change the more obvious understanding of scripture without proof for the scientific theory that undermined it.
The book's prose is plain, but always clear and readable. The tone is dispassionate and objective. The authors, both serious scholars in the field, have clearly done their homework (but mercifully use endnotes) and present a balanced account. This book may not change your view of Galileo or the Church, but it will certainly leave you much better informed about the facts of the case. Given the importance of understanding science and religion, this is no small matter.
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Format: Paperback
I have been interested in the Galileo affair for some years and I have read some great and difficult scholarly works about the case, such as Galileo, Science and the Church by Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Bellarmine and the Bible by Richard Blackwell and Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church by Annibale Fantoli and also the more readable, but well-researched, fascinating and well-written Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel . All these readings have deepened my understanding of the issues involved in the affair, but have increased my hunger to know more. This lead me to read (with a great deal of skepticism, I may say) Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius.
After reading this work, I must agree with Stephen M. Barr, theoretical particle physicist at the Bartol Research Institute of the University of Delaware and author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, that Galileo in Rome "represents the finest in modern Galileo scholarship." What I like most about this work is the combination of high quality scholarship with an excellent narrative strategy. The book tells the story of the founder of modern science from the perspective of his six visits to Rome. At the beginning he is a twenty- three- years old job seeker, at the end he is an old man sentenced to house arrest by the Inquisition. This book is powerful drama. It truly reads like a novel, but the tone is dispassionate and objective. Most importantly, it offers a balanced account that portraits the affair in all its complexity. Nevertheless, the trial was a tragic mistake and could have been avoided. It caused great damage to the Church and Galileo suffered a lot because of it.
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Format: Paperback
Recognized as the father of modern science for his study of physics and astronomy, Galileo's adherence to the Copernican theory of heliocentrism might not have been so problematic had it not been for his personality and misreading of Vatican politics. As it was he felt justified in printing his treatise Dialogue contrary to the church's admonition against his teaching of the theory. It is indicative of Galileo's scholarship and reputation that few of the volumes were handed back to authorities when the Dialogue was banned and Galileo was permitted to serve his sentence under house arrest.

Galileo's six trips to Rome began as a young man seeking employment and culminated with his hearings before the Holy Office forty-six years later when he admitted to "having violated an injunction not to discuss Copernicansim." (194) The author's use Galileo's letters, Papal records, newly discovered documents, and historical references to place the story in context.

As it unfolds the difficulty of incorporating scientific thought into established orthodoxy is shown at the very conception of science. What becomes clear is that a discovery, to be accepted, has to have a welcome mat and the structure of society does not always provide one. Galileo had to operate within an ecclesiastic framework not in tune with his views. While Galileo had many supporters, his opponents, whom he often accused of being ignorant, were powerful adversaries. It did not necessarily matter whether objections were valid or not as long as they adhered to tradition.

Another problem for science, is demonstrated by Galileo's use and improvement of the telescope. The power of the scope was increased twenty times and objects could be properly focused.
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