I'm reading the book Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, and discovering from it, one again, that the popular notions that are in the air about historic figures are usually skewed and misleading. The title of the book comes from the fact this is a biography of Galileo that draws heavily on the letters written to him by one of his daughters. His letters to her were destroyed, but hers to him survived, and much of what he wrote to her can be deduced from her replies and comments. I'm not even up to the point where she is old enough to start writing to him, and the controversy has already started to brew concerning what his discovery of the moons of Jupiter and the existence of sunspots means about the then view of the universe. At this point, no one in the Church is the least bit upset. The Pope and many Cardinals like Galileo, and are intrigued by his discoveries. He is respected and approved of. Except by the followers of Aristotle. Galileo has been chewing the teaching of Aristotle up and spitting them out, debunked, for many years. He proved that an object does not fall 10 times faster because it is 10 times heavier than another falling object, and he also severely trounced and embarrassed an aristotelian philosopher in a public debate over why ice floats. The Aristotelian's confabulation about this was that ice, while it was heavier than water, couldn't break the water's surface tension because of it's shape: usually having flat surfaces. Galileo asked why, then, if he forcibly shoved a piece of ice beneath the surface of the water, breaking it's surface tension, and let the ice go, it always floated back to the surface? "Before answering the adversaries' arguments," a contemporary observer reported of Galileo's debating style, "he amplified and reinforced them with apparently very powerful evidence which then made his adversaries look more ridiculous when he eventually destroyed their positions." -p. It was, apparently, his correction of the Aristotelian ideas on purely terrestrial matters, not any of his astronomical discoveries, that so provoked the hate of the embarrassed Aristotelians, that they undertook to blacken his name and reputation with the highest authorities in existence at the time: the church. "While working on his project [a treatise on floating bodies], he recieved a disturbing letter from an artist acquaintance in Rome: `I have been told by a friend of mine, a priest who is very fond of you,' the painter Ludovico Cardi da Cigoli warned Galileo, `that a certain crowd of ill-disposed men envious of your virtue and merits met at the house of the archbishop there [in Florence] and put their heads together in a mad quest for any means by which they could damage you, either in regard to the motion of the earth or otherwise. One of them wished to have a preacher state from the pulpit that you were asserting outlandish things. The priest, having percieved the animosity against you, replied as a good Christian and a religious man ought to do. Now I write this to you so that your eyes will be open to such envy and malice on the part of that sort of evildoers.'" From then on the conspirators worked to gain the ears of anyone with any influence, and turn them against Galileo by highlighting where his discoveries seemed to contradict scripture. When they eventually found a priest who would denounce him from the puplit, a Cardinal stepped in, censured the priest and made him apologize. The Aristotelians, though, found yet another. One of them also worked on one of Galileo's patrons, with some success. That's as far as I've gotten in the book, but everyone knows the ending, and it's clear that the Aristotelian conspirators succeed in turning the Catholic Church against Galileo. I was so surprised to discover that the eventual gagging of Galileo was not instigated by imperious church authorities, as is the conventional notion, but the embarrassed, debunked followers of Aristotle, that I thought it worth a mention. ---------------- The paperback edition I have is published by Penguin books, N.Y. 2000.