Galileo Galilei Criticism - Essay

Sir Robert S. Ball (essay date 1895)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Galileo," in Great Astronomers, Isbister and Company, Ltd., 1895, pp. 67-95.

[In the following excerpt, Ball gives a nineteenth-century perspective of Galileo's life and career, focusing in particular on letters from his daughter Sister Maria Celeste.]

Among the ranks of the great astronomers it would be difficult to find one whose life presents more interesting features and remarkable vicissitudes than does that of Galileo. We may consider him as the patient investigator and brilliant discoverer. We may consider him in his private relations, especially to his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a woman of very remarkable character; and we have also the pathetic...

(The entire section is 7106 words.)

Albert Einstein (essay date 1953)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Foreword to Galileo Galilei: "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic & Copernican," by Galileo Galilei, translated by Stillman Drake, with the foreward translated by Sonja Bargmann, University of California Press, 2nd ed., 1967, pp. vii-xix.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1953 and reprinted in 1967, Einstein expresses his admiration for Galileo's creativity and remarks that the theme of "Galileo's work is the passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority."]

Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems is a mine of information for anyone interested in the cultural history of the...

(The entire section is 2434 words.)

Giorgio de Santillana (essay date 1964)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Galileo in the Present," in Homage to Galileo: Papers Presented at the Galileo Quadricentennial, University of Rochester, October 8 and 9, 1964, edited by Morton F. Kaplon, The M.I.T. Press, 1965, pp. 1-25.

[In the following essay, first presented as a paper in 1964 and published in 1965, de Santillana argues that Galileo was the first to combine the study of science with the usefulness of technology, or "technique," in order to find out the "how" of things in nature.]

Galileo has by now moved out of history into myth. He is more than the creator of an era. He has become a hero of civilization, the symbol of a great adventure like Prometheus, or rather like...

(The entire section is 7597 words.)

Stillman Drake (essay date 1970)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Effectiveness of Galileo's Work," in Galileo Studies: Personality, Tradition, and Revolution, The University of Michigan Press, 1970, pp. 95-122.

[In the following excerpt, Drake asserts that Galileo was revolutionary for being the first to integrate the heretofore separate disciplines of mathematics, physics, and astronomy in scientific thought.]

Until the present century it was customary to call Galileo the founder of modern physical science. Ancient science was thought of as having ended with the decline of Greek civilization, and no real contribution to scientific thought was known to have been made during the long ensuing period to the late...

(The entire section is 7100 words.)

Pope John Paul II (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Epilogue: 'The Greatness of Galileo Is Known to All,'" in Galileo Galilei: Toward a Resolution of 350 Years of Debate—1633-1983, edited by Paul Cardinal Poupard, with the "Epilogue" translated by Ian Campbell from a speech given in 1979, Duquesne University Press, 1987, pp. 195-200.

[In the following essay, first presented as a speech in 1979 and reprinted in 1987, Pope John Paul II undertakes to reconcile the views of the Catholic Church with those of Galileo, arguing that Galileo was not in fact in opposition to the Church.]

During the centenary commemoration of the birth of Albert Einstein,1 celebrated by the Pontifical Academy of the...

(The entire section is 2202 words.)

Jean Dietz Moss (essay date 1983)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Galileo's Letter to Christina: Some Rhetorical Considerations," in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. XXXVI, No. 4, Winter, 1983, pp. 547-76.

[In the following essay, Moss argues that Galileo's letter to his patron's mother, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, in which he defends his position on Copernicus would have been more likely to save him had it stayed within his own area of expertise—mathematics—rather than strayed into theology, the specialty of his accusers.]

The year 1982 marked the 350th anniversary of the publication of Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, a work that was to have a tragic impact on the astronomer's life,...

(The entire section is 12882 words.)

Richard S. Westfall (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Science and Patronage: Galileo and the Telescope," in Isis, Vol. 76, March, 1985, pp. 11-30.

[In the following essay, Westfall argues that the heavy reliance upon and competition for patronage in the seventeenth century might have affected the truthfulness of some of the scientific conclusions and discoveries made by scientists of that period, including Galileo.]

Sometime late in 1610, probably near 11 December, Galileo received a letter from his disciple Benedetto Castelli:

If the position of Copernicus, that Venus revolves around the sun, is true (as I believe), [Castelli wrote], it is clear that it would necessarily...

(The entire section is 12001 words.)

Charles E. Hummel (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Galileo: Physics and Astronomy," in The Galileo Connection: Resolving Conflicts between Science and the Bible, Intervarsity Press, 1986, pp. 81-102.

[In the following excerpt, Hummel outlines Galileo's early years, and describes the steps in Galileo's own particular scientific method.]

Renaissance Italy was a collection of states with a wide variety of governmental structures. In one the people might hold power; another would have a hereditary ruler. Such diversity fostered the idea that there could be more than one way to govern. Differences of opinion on economic and social issues flourished. In that relatively open society, ready in many areas to consider...

(The entire section is 7983 words.)

William R. Shea (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Galileo and the Church," in God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, edited by David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, University of California Press, 1986, pp. 114-35.

[In the following essay, Shea details the theological, political, and scientific temper of the era and country in which Galileo lived, and argues that Galileo was more a victim of politics than of inflexible beliefs.]

The condemnation of Galileo (1564-1642) is perhaps the most dramatic incident in the long and varied history of the relations between science and religious faith. Honest seekers after truth have been shocked by the attempt to suppress...

(The entire section is 9527 words.)

Richard S. Westfall (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Bellarmino, Galileo, and the Clash of Two World Views," in Essays on the Trial of Galileo, Vatican Observatory Publications, 1989, pp. 1-30.

[In the following essay, Westfall summarizes the backgrounds of Galileo and his adversary, Cardinal Bellarmino (also known as Bellarmine), and argues that their conflict regarding Galileo's officially heretical belief in a Copernican or heliocentric universe began as early as 1610 with the publication of Sidereus nuncius (The Starry Messenger).]

And because it has also come to the attention of the aforementioned Sacred Congregation [the final paragraph of a decree of 5 March 1616 by the Congregation of...

(The entire section is 12613 words.)

Maurice A. Finocchiaro (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Introduction to The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History, edited and translated by Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of California Press, 1989, pp. 1-46.

[In the following excerpt, Finocchiaro describes Galileo 's personality as it clashed with the tenor of the times, and explains Copernicus 's heliocentric theory as well as its limitations, showing how, thanks to his improvements on the recently invented telescope, Galileo was able to eliminate most of those limitations.]

Nonintellectual Factors

Beginning with personal or psychological factors, it is easy to see that Galileo had a penchant for controversy, was a master of wit and...

(The entire section is 8688 words.)

Eileen Reeves (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Daniel 5 and the Assayer: Galileo Reads the Handwriting on the Wall," in The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring, 1991, pp. 1-27.

[In the following essay, Reeves portrays Galileo's Assayer as a witty and rigorous linguistic attack against scientific ignorance and vanity.]


In that great catalog of wit and invective which Galileo Galilei published in 1623 as the Assayer, the rather unlikely issue of Babylonian cookery is singled out as particularly deserving of ridicule. The matter arose in the course of the debate over the comets of 1618—the ostensible subject of the...

(The entire section is 11387 words.)

Annibale Fantoli (essay date 1994)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Storm Breaks Loose: The Trial and Condemnation of Galileo," in Galileo: For Copernicanism and for the Church, translated by George V. Coyne, S. J., Vatican Observatory Publications, 1994, pp. 369-462.

[In the following excerpt, Fantoli provides transcripts of Galileo's questioning by the Inquisition and his testimony concerning the publication of his Dialogue.]

6. The Trial of 1633 and Galileo's Defense

Finally the two-month long uncertainty came to an end. [Francesco Niccolini, Ambassador of the grand Duke of Tuscany to Rome's Holy See and spokesperson on behalf of Galileo,] was summoned by Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who...

(The entire section is 3593 words.)