Core Curriculum : Contemporary Civilization

Galileo > Dialogo di Galileo Galilei

Dialogo dei massimi sistemi. Frontispiece

Galileo Galili, Dialogo

Frontispiece of "Dialogo de Galileo Galilei Linceo matematico sopraordiniario dello studio di Pisa: e filosofo, e matematico primario del Serenissimo Gr. Duca di Toscana: dove ne i congressi de quattro giornate si discorre sopra I due assimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaic, e Copernicano: proponendo indeterminatamente le ragioni filosofiche, e naturali tanto per l'una, quanto per la'altra parte"
Florence: Per Gio. Batistia Landini, 1632

Columbia RBML SMITH 520 1632 G13

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Now referred to as The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo's watershed work was first published in 1632 with a very long title that indicates the tenseness surrounding its publication. The long title makes sure to announce Galileo's dedicatee, the powerful Duke of Tuscany (Fernando II de Medici, whose name appears bigger than Galileo's on the title page), and suggests that the author will take an even-handed and dispassionate approach to the subject. The frontispiece shows Galileo in conference with Ptolemy and Copernicus. Only Copernicus and Galileo hold scientific instruments.

In this work, Galileo postulated and implicitly advocated the heliocentric (Copernican) world view, contrasting it to the prevailing geocentric (Ptolomeic) model.  In order to obtain permission to publish, Galileo promised religious authorities—importantly including his sometime supporter Pope Urban VIII—that he would present heliocentrism as hypothetical, because the view contradicts passages of the Bible that refer to the stillness of the earth and the orbit of the sun.  Not convinced that the work did not come out in favor of heliocentrism, after the publication of this work the Roman Inquisition found Galileo “vehemently suspect of heresy” and the book was placed on the Pope's Index of Forbidden Books, where it remained for over 200 years. 

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