The Heresy of Galileo

Galileo was condemned by the Inquisition, not for his own brilliant theories, but because
he stood up for his belief in Copernicus’s theory that the earth was not, as the Church insisted, the
center of the universe, but that rather, the universe is heliocentric.Galileo was a man of
tremendous intellect and imagination living in a era dominated by the Catholic Church, which
attempted to control the people by dictating their own version of “reality.”Any person who
publicly questioned Church doctrine ran the chance of condemnation and punishment.If man
could think, man could question, and the Church could lose its authority over the masses.This
could not be tolerated in the 17th century, when the Church had the power to dictate “reality.”
Copernicus probably avoided a similar fate by confining his opinions to his students and the
university milieu, and in fact his theories were not published until the time of his death.
To be tried by the Inquisition was something that nobody could take lightly.Although in
Galileo’s time the Inquisition was becoming more and more lenient, it was known to have used
torture in the past and to have sent many heretics to burn at the stake.As late as 1600, this fate
had befallen the Italian thinker Giordano Bruno, a one-time Dominican friar who had adopted a
From the summer of 1605, Galileo was private tutor of mathematics to young Prince
Cosimo de’ Medici, son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.Teacher and pupil became sincerely
attached to each other by mutual affection and deference, and this bond lasted to the end of
Galileo’s life.Galileo remained a good friend of the Grand Duke as well.In the summer of 1611,
the Grand Duke invited Galileo to a dinner party at his court.The Duke liked to gather great
scholars around him, especially when he had illustrious guests, to hear them talk about issues of


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