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Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
Campanella, Galileo, and the Clash for the New Science at the Court of Pope Urban VIII
Stefano Gattei, Dibner Research Fellow in the History of Science and Technology, The Huntington Library,

Abstract: In 1620, when he was still a Cardinal, Maffeo Barberini wrote the Adulatio Perniciosa, a poem in praise of Galileo. When he became Pope Urban VIII (1623), Galileo dedicated The Assayer to him and travelled to Rome, where he was granted several private audiences. These exchanges gave Galileo new confidence, and he felt he could finally resume work on what would become the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632). In the Adulatio perniciosa Galileo is mentioned twice, together with his discoveries of Jupiter's satellites, "three-bodied" Saturn, and sunspots. The latter reference is particularly important. Galileo announced the discovery of sunspots in 1610, but a Jesuit astronomer, Christoph Scheiner, claimed priority over it; there ensued a bitter quarrel, culminating in two treatises by Scheiner and in Galileo's On Sunspots (1613). By praising his telescopic discoveries, not only did Barberini implicitly support Galileo's claims of priority, but took sides with his interpretation of the phenomena. Most notably, in On Sunspots, Galileo openly advocated heliocentrism: this caused an uproar of Aristotelian philosophers, and eventually led to Bellarmino's 1616 warning to Galileo. The Pope was very proud of his own poems, and praise of Urban VIII's poetical talents was obligatory to obtain his favor. Accordingly, in the late 1620s, the Dominican friar Tommaso Campanella wrote a voluminous commentary on the Pope's poems. He gave pride of place to the Adulatio perniciosa, and presented its author as an advocate of the new science against the dogmatic Aristotelians from within the Church. However, Campanella's attempt met with a harsh reaction from the Curia, and he had to flee to France. Most importantly, it alerted the Pope against similar attempts. Shortly thereafter, when Galileo's Dialogue came to Urban VIII's attention, it met with an even harsher reaction.

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