Galileo Galilei

"The same memorable day is marked by the setting of one of the most

brilliant stars in the firmament of art and the rising of another in the

sphere of science, which was to enlighten the world with beams of equal

splendor. On the 18th of February, 1564, Michael Angelo Buonarotti

closed his eyes at Rome, and Galileo Galilei first saw the light at


Thus writes young Karl von Gebler, in the best life of Galileo ever

written, his dying contribution to literature. Some other authorities

place Galileo's birth on February 15.

He was the oldest in a family of five children born to Vincenzo Galilei,

a Florentine noble, and Giulia Ammanati, who also belonged to an ancient

family. Vincenzo wrote learnedly about music, and taught his boy to play

on the lute and the organ; but he was poor and life was a struggle.

However beneficial poverty may be in the development of character, most

of us do not crave it for our children, so Vincenzo decided to place his

son where he could earn a comfortable support. Music did not bring

money. Galileo therefore should become a dealer in cloth; a necessity

of life, rather than a luxury.

But the boy soon showed great skill in music, surpassing his father. He

excelled in drawing and color, and could have become a noted artist. He

loved poetry, and had a decided taste for mechanics, making machines of

great ingenuity. It soon became evident that such a lad would not be

satisfied to spend his life trading in wool.

He must be educated, but how? The family had moved from Pisa, where

there were schools of repute, to Florence. An effort had to be made, by

the greatest economy, to prepare Galileo to go back to the Pisan

University. He showed great aptitude for Latin and Greek, and at

seventeen was ready for Pisa.

For what profession should he study? Not what best suited his tastes,

but that in which his father thought he could make money, medicine. Poor

Vincenzo! who can blame him that he hated poverty for his brilliant son?

At college, Galileo became an ardent student of philosophy, and because

he dared to think for himself, and did not always agree with the

teachings of Aristotle, he was called "the wrangler." Until he was

twenty he was scarcely acquainted with the rudiments of mathematics,

because his father thought this study was a waste of time for a man who

was to become a physician. How many parents make the mistake of bending

their children to their own plans, instead of ascertaining what a boy

or girl can do best in the world, and then fitting him or her for it!

While Galileo was studying medicine in Pisa, boarding with a relative,

the court of Tuscany came to the city for a few months. Among the suite

was Ostilio Ricci, a distinguished mathematician, and Governor of the

Pages of the Grand Ducal Court. He was a friend of the Galilei family,

and was pleased to see the bright young son, Galileo. When he taught

Euclid, the medical student would stand shyly at the schoolroom door,

and listen with intense interest. Soon he began to study mathematics

secretly; then begged Ricci to teach him, who gladly consented, till the

father forbade it, seeing that Euclid interfered with medicine.

Meantime, the youth of nineteen, kneeling at prayers in the Pisa

Cathedral, had dreamily watched a bronze lamp swinging from an arch. The

oscillations were at first considerable, but as they grew less and less,

Galileo observed that they were all performed in the same time,

measuring the time by feeling his pulse. The idea occurred to him that

an instrument could be constructed which should mark the rate and

variation of the pulse. He began to experiment, and soon invented the

pulselogia, which the physicians hailed with great delight. The pendulum

was not applied to clocks till a half-century later, but its invention

attracted the attention of all scholars.

After four years' residence at Pisa, Vincenzo Galilei appealed to the

reigning Grand Duke, Ferdinand de Medici, to grant to his son one of the

forty free places founded for poor students, but the request was denied,

and Galileo, unable to pay for his doctor's degree, was obliged to leave

the university without it. Already he had learned bitter lessons of

privation and disappointment, but youth has a brave heart, and looks

ever toward the sunlight.

He went back to his home in Florence to study the works of Archimedes,

whom he called his "master," to write his first essay on his Hydrostatic

Balance, and to earn the reputation of a bold inquirer in geometrical

and mechanical speculations. The father had now given up all hope of a

fortune coming through medicine! Henceforward, the genius which was to

shed lustre on his own name, otherwise buried in obscurity, was to have

its own bent, and work out its own destiny.

If we are in earnest, a door opens sooner or later; but our own hands

usually open it. At twenty-four a door opened to Galileo. Marquis

Guidubaldo, a celebrated mathematician, appreciating what the young

scientist had done, began a correspondence with him, and a valuable

friendship resulted. The marquis asked him to study the position of the

centre of gravity in solid bodies. Galileo applied himself to it, and

wrote a valuable essay, which waited fifty years for publication.

Perhaps no person can be really great who has not learned patience, and

Galileo had many lessons in this virtue before he died.

Through the influence of the marquis, he was brought to the notice of

Ferdinand I., reigning Grand Duke, who appointed him to the mathematical

professorship at Pisa. This was a great honor for a young man of

twenty-six, one who had been too poor to take his degree. The salary was

small, less than a hundred dollars a year; but he earned somewhat by the

practice of medicine, by lectures on Dante and other literary subjects,

and by lessons to private pupils. Of course, he had little or no

leisure; but he thus learned one of the most valuable lessons of

life,--to treasure time as though it were gold. How glad his father and

mother must have been that their wool projects had come to naught!

The professors at Pisa, with a single exception, Jacopo Mazzoni, in the

chair of philosophy, were opposed to the new-comer. They were all

disciples of Aristotle, and had not Galileo, when a boy among them,

dared to oppose the great Grecian? And now, to make matters worse, he

had taken some friends to the top of the Leaning Tower, and had put to

the test the belief of two thousand years,--that the rate at which a

body falls depends upon its weight. When the different weights fell to

the pavement at the foot of the Leaning Tower, at the same time, the

learned were astonished. If Aristotle could be wrong in one thing, he

might in others, and this young man would revolutionize the teaching of

the times!

The feeling became so strong against the investigator that after three

years at Pisa he resigned. When will the world learn toleration for

those whose opinions are different from the popular thought? From

Galileo to Darwin we have persecuted the men and women whose views were

unlike our own in theology, in science, or in social matters.

Through his friend, the Marquis Guidubaldo, the mathematical

professorship at Padua was obtained for Galileo. He was now twenty-nine,

and becoming widely known throughout Italy. His father had just died,

leaving the whole family, a wife and four children, dependent upon him

for support; not a small matter for an ambitious and hard-working


Padua gave the young man cordial welcome. Vincenzo Pinelli, a learned

nobleman, who possessed eighty thousand volumes, mentioned him to Tycho

Brahe, the great Danish astronomer, as a man whom it would be well to

cultivate; but the Dane was too cautious about his own reputation, and

did not write Galileo till eight years later, and died the following


An associate of Tycho Brahe was wiser than his master, and sent Galileo

his new book, "Prodromus Dissertationum Cosmographicum." A warm letter

of thanks went back to the immortal John Kepler, saying: "Many years ago

I became a convert to the opinions of Copernicus, and by that theory

have succeeded in fully explaining many phenomena which on the contrary

hypothesis are altogether inexplicable. I have drawn up many arguments

and compilations of the opposite opinions, which, however, I have not

hitherto dared to publish, fearful of meeting the same fate as our

master Copernicus, who, although he has earned for himself immortal fame

amongst the few, yet amongst the greater number appears as only worthy

of hooting and derision; so great is the number of fools."

John Kepler, like Galileo, lived a pathetic life. His childhood was

spent in the little beer-shop of his wretchedly poor father. At six he

had a severe attack of small-pox, and his eyes were permanently

weakened. He was put to the plough, but his delicate body could not bear

the work. At last, through charity, he became a theological student at

Tuebingen. But here he began to think for himself, and, probably, would

have been obliged to leave the university.

Fortunately for science, he heard some lectures given by Michael

Moestlen, famous in mathematics and astronomy. A new world opened to

Kepler. He applied himself with all the ardor of youth, and at

twenty-two became professor of mathematics at Graetz, in Styria. He was

soon driven away from this Catholic stronghold, on account of his

Protestant faith. Tycho Brahe heard of his needs, and made him his

assistant at Prague, with a salary of seven hundred and fifty dollars a

year. This seemed regal splendor to the poor astronomer. Now he studied

the heavens with hope and delight.

But sorrows soon came. His children died, his wife became insane, and

died also. The salary could not be paid, on account of the religious

wars which convulsed Germany. He wrote almanacs, took private pupils,

and in all ways tried to support his second wife and children, while he

studied the heavens year by year, discovering his three great laws. The

mathematical calculations for the first law, that the planets move in

elliptical orbits round the sun, which is placed at one of the foci,

filled seven hundred pages. His "Harmonies of the World" contained his

third great law: "The squares of the periodic times of the planets are

proportioned to the cubes of their mean distances from the sun."

Such was his joy when he discovered this law, after seventeen years of

labor, that he said, "I have written my book. It will be read; whether

in the present age or by posterity matters little. It can wait for its

readers. Has not God waited six thousand years for one to contemplate

his works?" In a last fruitless attempt to recover twenty-nine thousand

florins, owed him by the government, worn out with want and

disappointment, he fell ill and died at Ratisbon, leaving thirty-three

works, twenty-two volumes in manuscript, and his family in the direst

poverty. Such was the man who admired Galileo in his youth, and who

stands with him in the admiration of the generations that have come and

gone since these two men lived and wrote and suffered.

At Padua, Galileo soon attracted great numbers to his class-room. Often

a thousand gathered to hear his lectures, and when the hall was too

cramped, he spoke to the people in the open air. He was above the middle

height, well proportioned, with cheerful countenance, witty in

conversation, and enthusiastic in his manner. So learned that he could

repeat by heart much of the works of Virgil, Ovid, Horace, and Seneca;

he was yet modest and unassuming, saying that he never met a man so

ignorant but that something might be learned from him.

He labored incessantly. He wrote treatises on Fortifications, on

Mechanics, on Gnomonics, on the laws of motion, on the celestial globe,

which were copied by his pupils, and sent by them far and wide over

Europe. He took a workman into his family, and began to superintend the

making of the compass which he had invented, and the thermoscope, or

heat indicator, which led in later years to the thermometer. His

experiment was made by a "glass bottle about the size of a hen's egg,

the neck of which was two palms long, and as narrow as a straw. Having

well heated the bulb in his hands, he placed its mouth in a vessel

containing a little water, and withdrawing the heat of his hand from the

bulb, instantly the water rose in the neck, more than a palm above the

level of the water in the vessel."

During the first six years at Padua, his salary rose from about one

hundred dollars to five hundred dollars, yearly. All this time, when his

mind should have been free from care for his great work, he was beset

with difficulties. His sister, Virginia, had married before his father's

death, but a promised dowry had never been paid, and now the

brother-in-law demanded the payment. The mother, worried over the

prospect, wrote to her son, Galileo, "If you carry into effect your

intention of coming here next month, I shall be rejoiced, only you must

not come unprovided with funds, for I see that Benedetto is determined

to have his own, that is to say, what you promised him; and he threatens

loudly that he will have you arrested the instant you arrive here. And

as I hear you bound yourself to pay, he would have the power to arrest

you, and he is just the man to do it. So I warn you, for it would grieve

me much if anything of the kind were to happen."

Livia, another sister, had become engaged to a Pisan gentleman, with the

promise of a dowry of eighteen hundred ducats, eight hundred of which

must be paid down. The "Pisan gentleman" could not burden himself with a

wife, without funds to help support her and himself. So Galileo

generously, if not wisely, borrowed six hundred ducats, and paid the

necessary eight hundred, giving his sister beautiful clothes and house


Besides these sisters, Galileo had a lazy brother to provide for,

Michelangelo, a young man of some musical talent and elegant manners,

with the not unusual gift of being able to spend much and earn little.

Galileo obtained a situation for him with a Polish prince, and spent two

hundred crowns in getting him ready for the new position. He went

thither, but soon returned, and another place had to be procured for

him, at the court of the Duke of Bavaria.

While there, instead of helping to pay his sister's dowry, as he had

promised, he married; had an extravagant wedding feast, and then wrote

his hard-working brother: "I know that you will say that I should have

waited, and thought of our sisters before taking a wife. But, good

heavens! the idea of toiling all one's life just to put by a few

farthings to give one's sisters! This yoke would be indeed too heavy and

bitter; for I am more than certain that in thirty years I should not

have saved enough to cover this debt."

With all the pressure upon him for money, Galileo kept steadily on in

his absorbing studies. In the year 1609, he constructed a telescope. It

is true that Hans Lipperhey, of Germany, had invented a spy-glass, and

presented it to Prince Maurice, so that the principle was understood;

but nobody gave it practical illustration till Galileo, having heard of

the glass, began to reflect how an instrument could be made to bring

distant objects near. In a leaden tube, he fixed two glasses, both

having one side flat, and the other side of the one concave, and the

other convex. By this, objects appeared three times nearer and nine

times larger. A few days later, he hastened with his leaden tube to

Venice, to exhibit it to the Doge and the Senate. He wrote to a


"Many gentlemen and senators, even the oldest, have ascended at various

times the highest bell-towers in Venice, to spy out ships at sea, making

sail for the mouth of the harbor, and have seen them clearly, though

without my telescope they would have been invisible for more than two

hours. The effect of this instrument is to show an object at a distance

of, say, fifty miles, as if it were but five miles off.

"Perceiving of what great utility such an instrument would prove in

naval and military operations, and seeing that His Serenity greatly

desired to possess it, I resolved four days ago to go to the palace and

present it to the Doge as a free gift. And on quitting the

presence-chamber, I was commanded to bide awhile in the hall of the

senate, whereunto, after a little, the Illustrissimo Prioli, who is

Procurator and one of the Riformatori of the University, came forth to

me from the presence-chamber, and, taking me by the hand, said, 'that

the senate, knowing the manner in which I had served it for seventeen

years at Padua, and being sensible of my courtesy in making it a present

of my telescope, had immediately ordered the Illustrious Riformatori to

elect me (with my good-will) to the professorship for life, with a

stipend of one thousand florins yearly.'"

This must have been a comfort to the now famous Galileo, as it was,

doubtless, to the useless Michelangelo, and the two brothers-in-law! He

could now live in comparative peace and rest.

On his return to Padua, he began eagerly to study the heavens. He found

that the surface of the moon was mountainous; that the Milky Way was

composed of an immense number of small stars and nebulous matter; that

Orion, instead of being made up of seven heavenly bodies, had over five

hundred stars; and that the Pleiades were not seven, but thirty-six. In

January, 1610, he discovered the four moons of Jupiter, and that they

revolved around him. July 25 of the same year, he discovered the ring of

Saturn; in October, the phases of Venus, and later, the solar spots.

Florence and Padua were in a blaze of excitement. These new discoveries

seemed to prove that the earth was not the centre of the universe, but

that Copernicus was right when he declared the sun to be the centre.

Great opposition began to develop itself. Some of the Aristotelians

declared that the telescope of Galileo showed things which do not exist.

"It was ridiculous," they said, "that four planets (Jupiter's moons)

were chasing each other around a large planet.

"It is angels who make Saturn, Jupiter, the sun, etc., turn round. If

the earth revolves, it must also have an angel in the centre to set it

in motion; but if only devils live there, it would, therefore, be a

devil who would impart motion to the earth.

"The planets, the sun, the fixed stars, all belong to one species;

namely, that of stars--they, therefore, all move, or all stand still.

"It seems, therefore, to be a grievous wrong to place the earth, which

is a sink of impurity, among the heavenly bodies, which are pure and

divine things."

Libri, one of the Pisan professors, spoke of the new discoveries as

"celestial trifles." When he died, Galileo naively remarked, "Libri did

not choose to see my celestial trifles while he was on earth; perhaps he

will, now he is gone to heaven."

Galileo now longed for freedom from teaching, that he might have his

time for study and writing. He had planned, he said, "two books on the

system of the universe; an immense work (idea, concetto), full of

philosophy, astronomy, and geometry: three books on local motion, a

science entirely new; no one, either ancient or modern, having

discovered any of the marvellous accidents which I demonstrate in

natural and violent motions; so that I may, with very great reason, call

it a new science, discovered by me from its very first principles: three

books on mechanics, two on the demonstration of its first principles,

and one of problems; and though this is a subject which has already been

treated by various writers, yet all which has been written hitherto

neither in quantity nor otherwise is the quarter of what I am writing

on it. I have also various treatises on natural subjects, on sound and

speech, on sight and colors, on the tide, on the composition of

continuous quantity, on the motion of animals, and others; besides, I

have also an idea of writing some books on the military art, giving not

only a model of a soldier, but teaching, with very exact rules, all

which it is his duty to know that depends on mathematics; as, for

instance, the knowledge of encampment, drawing up battalions,

fortifications, assaults, planning, surveying, the knowledge of

artillery, the use of various instruments, etc."

With all this work in mind, he resigned the professorship at Padua, and

removed to Florence, the Grand Duke Cosmo II. giving him a yearly salary

of about one thousand dollars, and the title of Philosopher to His


His first thought, as ever, was for his family. He asked an advance of

two years' salary, and paid the dowry debts of his sisters' grasping


In 1611, his expenses paid by the Grand Duke, he went to Rome to show

his "celestial novelties," as they were called, to the pope and the

cardinals. He was received with great attention, and all seemed

delighted to look upon the wonders of the heavens, provided always that

nothing could be proved against the supposed assertion of the Bible that

the earth did not move!

Galileo soon published his "Discourse on Floating Bodies," which

aroused violent opposition; "Spots observed on the Body of the Sun," and

the "Discourse on the Tides."

Four years later, he was again in Rome to plead for the Copernican

system, and to defend his own conduct in advocating a thing in

opposition to the Catholic church. He said: "I am inclined to think that

the authority of Holy Scripture is intended to convince men of those

truths which are necessary for their salvation, and which, being far

above man's understanding, cannot be made credible by any learning, or

any other means than revelation by the Holy Spirit. But that the same

God, who has endowed us with senses, reason, and understanding, does not

permit us to use them, and desires to acquaint us in any other way with

such knowledge as we are in a position to acquire for ourselves by means

of those faculties, that, it seems to me, I am not bound to believe,

especially concerning those sciences about which the Holy Scriptures

contain only small fragments and varying conclusions; and this is

precisely the case with astronomy, of which there is so little that the

planets are not even all enumerated."

However, in spite of Galileo's logic, the church decreed that all books

which stated the Copernican system as true should be prohibited; as a

mathematical hypothesis, it might be speculated upon. This was a great

disappointment to Galileo, who loved and revered the Roman Catholic

faith. He went home to the Villa Segni, at Bellosguardo, near Florence,

and for seven years led a studious and secluded life.

His greatest comfort, during these quiet years, was the devotion of his

daughter, Polissena, who had entered a convent as Sister Maria Celeste.

While in Padua, Galileo had three children by Marina Gamba, a Venetian

woman of inferior station. She afterwards married a man of her own

class, and Galileo took his children to his own home; a condition of

things possible with the low moral standard of the time. The two

daughters were placed in a convent, while the son, Vincenzo, was

educated for the profession of medicine, but he seems to have been a

disappointment and a source of discomfort.

Maria Celeste, in the convent of St. Matthew, loving and tender, and

helpful to all around her, wrote constantly to the man whom she

idolized. "I put by carefully," she says, "the letters you write me

daily, and when not engaged with my duties, I read them over and over

again. This is the greatest pleasure I have, and you may think how glad

I am to read the letters you receive from persons who, besides being

excellent in themselves, have you in esteem."

Again she writes, "I leave you to imagine how pleased I am to read the

letters you constantly send me. Only to see how your love for me prompts

you to let me know fully what favors you receive from these gentlemen is

enough to fill me with joy. Nevertheless I feel it a little hard to hear

that you intend leaving home so soon, because I shall have to do

without you, and for a long time too, if I am not mistaken. And your

lordship may believe that I am speaking the truth when I say that except

you there is not a creature who gives me any comfort. But I will not

grieve at your departure because of this, for that would be to complain

when you had cause for rejoicing. Therefore I too will rejoice, and

continue to pray God to give you grace and health to make a prosperous

journey, so that you may return satisfied, and live long and happily,

all which, I trust, will come to pass by God's help.

"I send two baked pears for these days of vigil. But as the greatest

treat of all, I send you a rose, which ought to please you extremely,

seeing what a rarity it is at this season. And with the rose, you must

accept its thorns, which represent the bitter passion of our Lord, while

the green leaves represent the hope we may entertain that through the

same Sacred Passion we, having passed through the darkness of this short

winter of our mortal life, may attain to the brightness and felicity of

an eternal spring in heaven."

"Only in one respect does cloister life weigh heavily on me; that is,

that it prevents my attending on you personally, which would be my

desire, were it permitted. My thoughts are always with you."

And so the seven years of study went by, with the sweet love of Maria

Celeste to brighten them. There are none so great that they can live

without affection.

At the end of the seven years, Urban VIII. came to the pontifical

throne, and Galileo and other scientists rejoiced, for he had seemed

liberal in thought and generous in heart. When he was cardinal, he had

sent a letter to Galileo, saying, "The esteem which I always entertain

for yourself and your great merits has given occasion to the enclosed

verses. If not worthy of you, they will serve at any rate as a proof of

my affection, while I purpose to add lustre to my poetry by your

renowned name. Without wasting words, then, in further apologies, which

I leave to the confidence which I place in you, I beg you to receive

with favor this insignificant proof of my great affection."

At Easter, 1624, Galileo, now sixty years old, resolved to proceed to

Rome, to welcome the new pope, and urge his approval of the Copernican

theory. Frail in health, he was carried most of the way in a litter.

During a visit of six weeks, he had six long audiences with Urban VIII.;

but, though he was affably received, the pope was in no wise convinced,

but rather tried to convince Galileo that he was in error.

Yet so kind was he that Galileo went back to Florence with the hope and

belief that he could bring out his great work, "Dialogues on the Two

Principal Systems of the World, the Ptolemaic and Copernican," without

opposition from the church. In this book, Galileo gave the results of

scientific research and discovery in the half century preceding, using

such clear yet brilliant style in writing as to make the work attractive

even to the unlearned.

It was ready for publication in March, 1630, but to be sure that the

pope did not object, Galileo was urged to go in person to Rome. He went

and presented the matter to Urban, who gave his consent provided that

the title should show that the Copernican system was treated as a

hypothesis merely, and that he, the pope, should write the closing


Rather than forego the publication of that upon which he had worked for

years, Galileo consented, and returned to Florence. A license to publish

was then obtained from the Inquisitor-General, and the Vicar-General of

Florence, after great delay. A second and a third time the papal

authorities wished to look over the manuscript. Two years went slowly


Other anxieties came to the man of sixty-eight, besides the long delay.

The impecunious Michelangelo sent his wife, seven children, and a German

nurse, to the home of Galileo, to be taken care of. The eldest nephew

was sent to Rome to study music. He was found to be obstinate, impudent,

and dissolute, "wicked ways" which his weak and indulgent father said

"he did not learn from me, or any one else belonging to him. It must

have been the fault of his wet nurse!"

Galileo's son Vincenzo had married and brought his wife home to live.

Strange fortune for this man of genius! Strange that he must have

helpless relatives, and constant pecuniary troubles. Most great lives

are as pathetic as they are great.

As ever, the one gleam of light was the daily letter from Maria Celeste,

in which she expressed a tenderness beyond what any daughter ever had

for a father. "But I do not know how to express myself, except by saying

that I love you better than myself. For, after God, I belong to you; and

your kindnesses are so numberless that I feel I could put my life in

peril, were it to save you from any trouble, excepting only that I would

not offend His Divine Majesty."

Finally Galileo moved to Arcetri, over against the convent, to be near

the one who alone satisfied his heart.

In January, 1632, the "Dialogues" appeared. Copies were sent to his

friends and disciples throughout Italy. The whole country applauded, and

at last Galileo seemed to have won the homage he had so long deserved.

But a storm was gathering. Enemies were at work prejudicing the mind of

Urban VIII., making him feel that Galileo had wrought evil to the

church. At once an order came from the Inquisition to secure every copy

in the booksellers' shops throughout Italy, and to forward all copies to


In October of the same year of publication, Galileo was summoned to

appear at Rome, to answer to that terror of past centuries, the charge

of heresy. His friends urged that he was old and feeble, and that he

would die on the journey, but Urban's commands were peremptory.

Galileo was deeply depressed by the summons, and wrote a friend: "This

vexes me so much that it makes me curse the time devoted to these

studies, in which I strove and hoped to deviate somewhat from the beaten

track generally pursued by learned men. I not only repent having given

the world a portion of my writings, but feel inclined to suppress those

still in hand, and to give them to the flames, and thus satisfy the

longing desire of my enemies, to whom my ideas are so inconvenient."

On January 20, 1633, the decrepit old man set out in a litter for Rome,

arriving on February 13. On April 12, he was brought before the

Inquisition, and briefly examined and then remanded to prison, though

treated with great leniency. The anxiety and deprivation from outdoor

exercise brought on illness, and he was confined to his bed till led a

second time before the Inquisition, April 30.

Weak, aged, in fear of torture, he made the melancholy confession that

his "error had been one of vainglorious ambition, and pure ignorance and

inadvertence." Pure ignorance! from the man who had studied for fifty

years all that the world knew of science! But he recalled how men had

died at the stake for offending the church. The world is not full of

men and women who can suffer death for their convictions, however much

we may admire such courage. On May 10, he was summoned a third time

before the Inquisition, and told that he had eight days in which to

write his defence. In touching language he stated how the book had been

examined and re examined by the authorities, so that there might be

nothing heterodox in it; and then he urged them to consider his age and

feeble health.

A fourth time he came before the Holy Congregation, June 21, and was

asked whether he held that the sun is the centre of the solar system,

and that the earth is not the centre, and that it moves. He replied, "I

do not hold, and have not held this opinion of Copernicus since the

command was intimated to me that I must abandon it; for the rest, I am

here in your hands,--do with me what you please."

And then June 22, in the forenoon, in the large hall of the Dominican

Convent of St. Maria sopra la Minerva, in the presence of cardinals and

prelates, he heard his sentence.

"The proposition that the sun is the centre of the world and does not

move from its place is absurd, and false philosophically, and formally

heretical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture.

"The proposition that the earth is not the centre of the world and

immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is equally

absurd and false philosophically; and theologically considered, at

least, erroneous in faith.... Invoking, therefore, the most holy name of

our Lord Jesus Christ and of His most glorious mother and ever Virgin

Mary ... we say, pronounce, sentence, declare, that you, the said

Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in process, and by you

confessed as above, have rendered yourself, in the judgment of this Holy

Office, vehemently suspected of heresy,--namely, of having believed and

held the doctrine, which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine

Scriptures,--that the sun is the centre of the world and does not move

from east to west, and that the earth moves and is not the centre of the

world.... We condemn you to the formal prison of this Holy Office during

our pleasure, and, by way of salutary penance, we enjoin that for three

years to come you repeat once a week the seven Penitential Psalms."

Galileo was also required to "abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid

errors and heresies." And then the white-haired man of seventy, humbly

kneeling before the whole assembly, made the pitiful abjuration of his

belief. "I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and

detest the said errors and heresies, and, generally, all and every error

and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church."

Pitiful spectacle of intolerance! If we of this nineteenth century have

learned to tolerate and treat with respect the beliefs of others though

widely divergent from our own, perhaps this wretched drama was not acted

in vain.

It has been said that Galileo exclaimed as he rose from his feet, "E

pur si muove," "It moves, for all that," but this would have been well

nigh an impossibility, in the midst of men who would instantly have

taken him to a dungeon, and the story is no longer believed.

On July 9, poor Galileo was allowed to leave Rome for Siena, where he

stayed five months in the house of the archbishop, and then became a

prisoner in his own house at Arcetri, with strict injunctions that he

was "not to entertain friends, nor to allow the assemblage of many at a


He wrote sadly to Maria Celeste, "My name is erased from the book of the

living." Tender words came back, saying that it seemed "a thousand

years" since she had seen him, and that she would recite the seven

penitential psalms for him, "to save you the trouble of remembering it."

In less than a year, sweet Maria Celeste had said the last psalms for

him. She died April 1, 1634, at thirty-three years of age, leaving

Galileo heart-broken; "a woman," he said, "of exquisite mind, singular

goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."

He went to work on another book, but he said, pathetically, "I hear her

constantly calling me!" Beautiful spirit, that will forever shed a halo

around the name of Galileo Galilei!

In the summer of 1636, he completed his "Dialogues on Motion," and sent

it to Leyden for publication. The next year he made his last discovery,

known as the moon's librations.

The house at Arcetri had become dark and lonely. The wife of

Michelangelo, her three daughters and a son, had all died of the plague.

It was doubly dark, for Galileo had become hopelessly blind, "so that

this heaven, this earth, this universe, which I by my marvellous

discoveries and clear demonstrations had enlarged a hundred thousand

times beyond the belief of the wise men of bygone ages, henceforward for

me is shrunk into such a small space as is filled by my own bodily


His last work was a short treatise on the secondary light of the moon.

"I am obliged now," he said, sadly, "to have recourse to other hands and

other pens than mine since my sad loss of sight. This, of course,

occasions great loss of time, particularly now that my memory is

impaired by advanced age; so that in placing my thoughts on paper, many

and many a time I am forced to have the foregoing sentences read to me

before I can tell what ought to follow; else I should repeat the same

thing over and over."

He had planned other work, but death came on the evening of January 8,

1642, eight years after Celeste left him. His beloved pupils, Torricelli

and Viviani, and his son Vincenzo, stood by his bedside.

He desired to be buried in the family vault of the Galilei in Santa

Croce, at Florence, and the city at once voted a public funeral and

three thousand crowns for a marble mausoleum. But the church at Rome

prevented, lest the pernicious doctrine that the earth moves, should

thereby have confirmation. He was therefore buried in an obscure corner

of Del Noviziato, a side chapel of Santa Croce.

A century later, March 12, 1737, in the presence of the learned men of

Italy, with great ceremony, the bones of Galileo were removed to a new

resting-place in Santa Croce, and buried with his beloved friend,

Viviani. An imposing monument was erected over him. The truth finally

triumphed, as it always does. The works of Galileo, in sixteen volumes,

are no longer prohibited, as they were in his lifetime.

Frederick Chopin Genseric the Vandal facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail