I am inclined to believe that the intention of
the Sacred Scriptures is to give to mankind the information necessary for
But I do not hold it necessary to believe that the same God who has
endowed us with senses, with speech, with intellect, intended that we
should neglect the use of these, and seek by other means for knowledge
which these are sufficient to procure for us; especially in a science like
astronomy, of which so little notice is taken by the Scriptures that none
of the planets, except the sun and moon and once or twice only Venus, by
the name of Lucifer, are so much as named at all.
This therefore being granted, methinks that in the discussion of natural
problems we ought not to begin at the authority of texts of Scriptures but
at sensible experiments and necessary demonstrations.
[Pg 49][Pg 48]
ith the history of Galileo and Copernicus, there is connected a man of
such stern and withal striking individuality that the story of the rise
and evolution of astronomy can not be told and this man's name left out.
Giordano Bruno was born in Fifteen Hundred Forty-eight. His parents were
obscure people, and his childhood and early education are enveloped in
mystery. Occasional passages in his writings refer to his sympathy for
outcast children, and he quotes the saying of Jesus, "Suffer little
children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom
of Heaven." He then refers to himself as having been a waif and robbed of
the love that was his due, "the lawful, legal heritage of every child,
sent without its consent into a world of struggle and strife, where only
love makes existence possible."
Evidently, the early life of Bruno was a symbol and shadow of what Fate
held in store for him.
The first authentic knowledge we have of Bruno was when he was twenty-two
years old. He was then a Dominican monk, and he is brought to our
attention because he distinguished himself by incurring the displeasure of
his superiors. His particular offense[Pg 50] was that he had declared,
"The infallibility of the Pope is only in matters spiritual, and does not
apply to the science of material things."
Strangely enough, these words of Bruno are almost identical with words
recently expressed by Cardinal Satolli.
The difference in their reception is owing to a mere matter of a few
hundred years. Truth is a question of time and place. Bruno was banished
for his temerity, and Satolli wears the red hat. Verily, yesterday's
heresy is today's orthodoxy.[Pg 51]
he attitude of the Church toward the teachings of Copernicus, after the
death of the man, was one of patronizing pity.
Instead of putting his great book, "Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies,"
on the "Index," the wiser plan was adopted of paying no attention to it.
Occasionally, however, the subject was broached by some incautious
novitiate, and then the custom was to treat the Copernican Theory as a
mere hypothesis, and its author as a mental defective.
Bruno would not have it so. To him it was a very important matter whether
the sun revolved around the earth as the priests taught, or the earth
revolved around the sun as set forth in the work of Copernicus. He came to
the conclusion that Copernicus was right, and said so.
It was ordered that he should cease lecturing on the subject of astronomy
and apply himself to spiritual matters. He argued that he should be
allowed to think and speak what he pleased about the stars, since the
whole matter was one of opinion, and even the Pope did not know,
positively, the final facts of astronomy, and if the Copernican Theory was
a hypothesis, so also was the Ptolemaic Theory held by the Church.
It will be seen that Copernicus and Bruno were very different in
temperament: one was gentle, diplomatic, cautious; the other was
headstrong, firm and full of argument.
Bruno was given his choice: to cease the[Pg 52] study of astronomy or to
lay aside the Dominican frock. The hardihood of the young man was seen in
that he unfrocked himself, thinking that once outside of the order he was
not responsible to a superior and could teach what he pleased, so long as
it was not "heresy."
Heresy is treason to the Church, but Bruno could not see how spiritual
dogma could cover the facts of Physical Science, since new facts were
constantly being discovered, and the material universe could only be
understood by being studied. He was too innocent to comprehend that a vast
majority of the people believed that popes, cardinals and priests knew
everything, and that when any branch of knowledge was questioned it placed
the priests in doubt. Certainly the Church has not opposed Science—she has
only opposed heresy. But the curious fact is that advancing Science has
usually been to the Church heretical. When Bruno opposed anything that the
priests taught, he opposed the Church. He was warned to leave Rome—his
life was in danger. He fled to Geneva, the home of Calvin.
Here he thought, surely, he could speak and write as he chose. But alas!
Protestantism cared even less about Science than did the monks, and
"heresy" to John Calvin was quite as serious a matter as it was to
Calvin's competitor, the Pope of Rome.
The Protestants of Geneva gave Bruno scant attention;[Pg 53] they had
never heard of Copernicus, and the movements of the stars were as nothing
to them, since the world was soon to come to an end.
The learned men were even then making mathematical calculations, based on
the prophecies of the Old Testament, as to how soon the general
destruction would take place.
Bruno sought to argue them out of their childishness, with the result that
he got himself marked as an infidel and a dangerous man.
From Geneva he went to Lyons, then to Paris, where his personality made
itself felt, and he was given a hearing at the University. Here he
remained for several years, when he went to England, arriving there in
Fifteen Hundred Eighty-four, the same year that a rustic by the name of
William Shakespeare, from Stratford, reached London. Whether they ever met
Bruno spoke five languages, and his polite accomplishments afforded him an
immediate entry into the best circles of society. He was entertained at
the home of Sir Philip Sidney, and afterward carried on an extensive
correspondence with this prince of gentlemen. Greville presented Bruno to
Queen Elizabeth, who invited him to lecture at the Court on his favorite
This he did, and it is quite probable that the noble lords and ladies left
"calls" so they could be awakened when the lecture was over and
congratulate the speaker[Pg 54] of the evening on his effort.
At Oxford there were disputations where Bruno's faultless Latin impressed
the pedants much more than did his argument, so they offered him a
position as Professor of Languages, but this he smilingly declined,
excusing himself on the grounds that he had important business on the
Continent: and he had. Already they were collecting fagots for his
He returned to Paris and began his lecturing on Science. His arguments had
convinced one person at least, and that was himself, that as the Church
knew nothing of Physical Science, why, possibly it stood in a like
position regarding spiritual truth. That is to say, the so-called "sacred
truths" were mere assumptions piled up to satisfy the people, and the
ignorance and superstition of the many marked high water for the teaching
of the priests. The business of the Church was to satisfy the people, and
not enlighten them, for if the people became enlightened enough they would
see that they did not need the Church, and then where were the honors and
the riches and the red hats!
Bruno cleared his mind of its cobwebs by expression, just as we all
do—that is what expression is for.
The people really dictate to the priests what they shall teach; moreover,
the people absolutely refuse to listen to anything in which they do not
believe, and decline to pay for preaching that is not done to their own
dictation. The business, then, of the Church is to study[Pg 55] carefully
the ignorance of the people and conform to it. On this one thing does its
stability depend. Therefore it must, as a matter of self-preservation,
suppress any chance intellect that is ahead of its time, lest this man
honeycomb the whole structure of churchly dogma.
Bruno said that, just as the world seemed to stand still and the stars
move around us, so did the Church seem to most people a fixed fact. But
exactly the opposite was true; the Church moves as the people move, and
unless men outside of the Church educate the people, or the people educate
themselves, they will forever remain in darkness.
Bruno offered to debate the question publicly with the Bishop of Paris.
That worthy was no match for Bruno in point of oratory, but when we can
not answer a man's reasons, all is not lost, for we can at least call him
vile names, and this is often quite as effectual as logic.
The Bishop launched a fusillade of theological lyddite at Bruno, declaring
that any Churchman who would so much as hold converse with such a wretch
was disgraced forever, and that the propositions Bruno wished to argue
were unthinkable to a self-respecting man. He declared that it was only
the mercy of God that kept the lightning from striking Bruno dead as he
wrote his heresies.
Matters were getting strained, and the authorities, fearing insurrection,
acted upon the advice of the good[Pg 56] Bishop and expelled Bruno from
France. He went to Wittenberg, in his innocence, intending to tack on the
church-door there his theses. But Wittenberg had no use for Bruno—he
believed too much, or too little, Luther could not tell which.
The University of Zurich now offered to let the exile come there and teach
what he wished. Thither he journeyed and there his restless mind seemed
for the first time to find a home. His writings were slowly making head,
and around him there clustered a goodly group of students who believed in
him and loved him.
In the midst of this oasis in a troubled life, word came from some of the
old-time friends he had known in Rome. They were now in Venice, and wished
to have him come there and lecture. Bruno thought that his little leaven
was leavening the whole lump—he was not without ambition—he was flattered
by the invitation. He accepted it and went to Venice.
It was simply a ruse to get the man within striking distance. Very soon
after his arrival in Venice he was arrested by agents of the Inquisition
and secretly taken to Rome. He was lodged in a dungeon of the Castle Saint
Angelo. Just what his experience was there we can not say—the horrors of
it all are not ours, for no friend of Bruno's was allowed to approach, and
what he there wrote was destroyed.
We do know, however, that he was asked to recant, and we know he refused.
We also know that he repeated[Pg 57] his heresies and hurled back into the
teeth of his accusers the invective they heaped upon him.
Bribery, persuasion, threat and torture were tried in turn, but all in
vain, for Bruno would not swerve. Unlike Savonarola his quivering flesh
could not wring from his heart an apology.
He scorned the rack and thumbscrew, declaring they could not reach his
soul. He knew that death would be the end; he prayed for it, and even
thought to hasten it by an aggravating manner and harshness of speech
toward his captors, seemingly quite unnecessary.
For seven long years he was in prison. He was burned alive on the Seventh
of February, Sixteen Hundred, aged fifty-two.
When bound to the stake he turned his face from the crucifix that was held
before him, and sought to kiss the fagots. His ashes were thrown to the
four winds. Thus perished Bruno.[Pg 58]
n the year Fifteen Hundred Sixty-four, Galileo Galilei was born;
consequently, he was thirty-six years old when Bruno was executed. He had
known Bruno, had attended many of his lectures, and had followed his
career with interest; and while he agreed with him concerning the
Copernican theory of the earth's revolution, he took exceptions to Bruno's
arbitrary ways of presenting the matter, and also to his scathing
criticisms of theology. At this time Galileo could not see that the
extravagant words of Bruno were largely forced from him by the violence of
the opposition he had encountered. Galileo fully believed that Bruno had
been put to death for treason to the Church, and not on account of his
These men had come up from totally different stations in life. Bruno was a
man of the people—a self-made man—who bore upon his person the marks of
the hammer. Galileo was of noble blood, and traced an ancestry to a
Gonfalonier of Florence. From early infancy he had enjoyed association
with polite persons, and had sat on the knees of greatness.
When eighteen he was graduated from the University of Pisa; and at that
early age his family and friends were comparing him, not without reason,
to a Genius who had come out of Tuscany some years before, Leonardo da
Parents either exaggerate the talents of their children[Pg 59] or else
belittle them. The woman who bore George Gordon called him "that lame
brat"; but we call him "The Poet Byron."
Benjamin Franklin ran away from home, and his family thought themselves
disgraced by his printed utterances. George Washington's mother, after
being told that her son had been made Commander-in-Chief, laughed
knowingly and said, "They don't know him as well as I do!" Voltaire's
father posted his son as irresponsible, tied up a legacy so "the
scapegrace could not waste it," invested good money in daily prayers to be
said for the scapegrace's salvation, and then died of a broken heart, just
as play-actors do on the stage, only this man died sure enough. Alfred
Tennyson at thirteen wrote a poem addressed to his grandfather; the old
gentleman gave him a guinea for it, and then wrote these words: "This is
the first and last penny you will ever receive for writing poetry." The
father of Shelley misquoted Job, and said, "Oh, to be brought down to the
grave in grief through the follies of an ungrateful child!" And Labouchere
says that one of the four brothers of Shakespeare used to explain that he
wasn't the play-actor who wrote "Hamlet" and "Othello," lest, mayhap, his
name should be smirched.
Galileo's mother had that beautiful dream which I believe all good mothers
have: that her son might be the savior of the world. As he grew to
manhood, her faith in him did not relax.[Pg 60]
In childhood Galileo showed great skill in invention. He made curious toys
with cogs and wheels and eccentrics; whittled out violins, and transformed
simple reeds into lutes, upon which he played music of his own
composition. In fact, so great was his skill in music that at twenty they
wished to make him official organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral. His
personal taste, however, ran more to painting; for some months he worked
at his canvases with an ardor too great to last long. If ever a man was
touched by the Spirit of the Renaissance, it was surely young Galileo. The
Archbishop of Pisa said, "Upon him has fallen the mantle of Michelangelo."
He gave lectures on Art, and taught Painting by actual example. One of his
pupils, and a great artist, Lodovico Cigoli, always maintained that it was
to the inspiration and counsel of Galileo that he owed his success.
There are really only two things to see at Pisa: one is the Leaning Tower,
from which Galileo with his line and plummet made some of his most
interesting experiments; and the other is the Cathedral where the visitor
beholds the great bronze lamp that is suspended from the vaulted ceiling.
When he was about twenty-one, sitting in the silence of this church (which
the passing years have only made more beautiful), he noticed that there
was a slight swinging motion to this lamp—it was never still. Galileo set
to work timing and measuring these oscillations, and he found that they
were always[Pg 61] done in exact measure and in perfect rhythm. This led,
some years later, to perfecting an astronomical clock for measuring
movements of the stars. And from this was originated the pendulum-clock,
where before we had depended on sundials.
The endeavor of Galileo's parents had been to keep him ignorant of
mathematics and practical life, that he might blossom forth as a saint who
would sing and play and make pictures like those of Leonardo, and carve
statues like Michelangelo, only better.
But parents plan, and Fate disposes.
In Fifteen Hundred Eighty-three, Ostilio Ricci, the famous mathematician,
chanced to be in Pisa, on his way from Rome to Milan, and gave a lecture
at the Court, on Geometry.
Galileo was not interested in the theme, but he was in the speaker, and so
he attended the lecture.
This action proved one of the pivotal points in his life.
"Whether other people really teach us anything, is a question," says
Stanley Hall; "but they do sometimes give us impulses, and make us find
out for ourselves."
Ricci made Galileo find out for himself.
He turned to Archimedes from Plato. Geometry became a passion, and a very
wise man has told us that we never accomplish anything, either good or
bad, without passion. Passion means one hundred pounds of steam on the
boiler, with love sitting on the safety-valve,[Pg 62] when the blow-off is
set for fifty.
It surely is risky business, I will admit; accidents will occur
occasionally and explosions sometimes happen, but everything is risky,
even life, since few get out of it alive.
And so, to drop back to the original proposition, nothing great and
sublime is ever done without passion.
Galileo had his mechanical whooping-cough, musical mumps, artistic
measles, and now the hectic flush of mathematics burned on his cheeks. He
talked and dreamed mathematics.
Euclid was in the saddle.
Ricci became interested in the talented young scholar and remained longer
at Pisa than he had intended, that they might sit up all night and
surprise the rising sun, discussing beauties of dimensions and the wonders
Together they went to Florence, where Ricci introduced his pupil as a
pedagogic sample of the goods, just as Booker Washington usually takes
with him on his travels a few ebony homo bricks as his specimens from
The beauty and the grace of Galileo's speech and presence put the abstract
Ricci in the shadow. The right man can make anything interesting, just as
Dean Swift could write an entrancing essay with the broomstick as a
central theme. The man's the thing, Hamlet to the contrary,
Galileo knew the Florentine heart, and so he gave[Pg 63] lectures on a
Florentine: one Dante, who loved a girl named Beatrice.
The young Pisan drew diagrams of Dante's Inferno—and surely it was
nobody's else. He gave its size, height, weight, and told how to reach it.
He gave lectures on the Hydrostatic Balance and the Centers of Gravity,
and then published them as serials.
The Florentines crowned him with bay and enthusiastically proclaimed him,
"The Modern Archimedes."[Pg 64]
isa now put forth efforts to have her gifted son come home. There was
always rivalry between Pisa and Florence. Pisa could not afford to supply
Florence her men of genius—let her depend upon production from home, or go
Galileo became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Pisa, a life
position, or at least one he could hold during good behavior.
One of the time-honored dictums of the day was that falling bodies fell
with a velocity proportioned to their weight. The question was first
thrashed out in the classroom; and after Galileo had slyly gotten all of
these scientific wiseacres to commit themselves, he invited them, with
their students, to the Leaning Tower.
Then he proved by ocular demonstrations that they were positively wrong.
It is very beautiful to teach Truth, but error should not be corrected
with too much eclat. If the love of Truth, alone, was the guiding impulse
of Galileo, he might have secretly explained his theory to one of the
wiseacres, and this wiseacre could have casually demonstrated it, so all
the rest could have said, "That is what we always knew and taught."
Instead of this, Galileo compelled the entire faculty to back water and
dine on fricasseed crow.
They got even by calling him "a scientific bastardino," and at his next
lecture he was roundly hissed. Soon[Pg 65] after he was bluntly informed
that his office was to teach the young, and not to undo the old.
And that is the way the troubles of Galileo began.
He might then have apologized, and slipped back into peace and obscurity
and later been tucked in by kind oblivion. But he had tasted blood, and
the rabies of setting straight the scientific world, for its own good, was
That he was wrong in the correction of his elders, he would not for a
moment admit; and he was even guilty of saying, "Antiquity can not
sanctify that which is wrong in reason and false in principle." Soon after
he committed another forepaugh by showing that a wonderful boat invented
by Giovanni de Medici for the purpose of fighting hostile ships, would not
work, since there were no men on board to guide it, and its automatic
steering apparatus would as likely run its nose into land, as into the
hull of the enemy.
He also decorated his argument with a few subtle touches as to the beauty
of fighting battles without going to war and risking life and limb.
Men who are not kind to the faults of royalty can hope for small favor in
a monarchy, though the monarchy be a republic. Galileo was cut off the
Standard Oil payroll, and forced to apply to a teachers' agency, that he
might find employment.
He did not wait long; the rival University of Padua tendered him a
position on a silver platter; and the[Pg 66] Paduans made much dole about
how unfortunate it was that men could not teach Truth in Italy, save at
Padua—alas! The Governing Board of Padua made a great stroke in securing
Galileo, and Pisa fell back on her Leaning Tower as her chief attraction.
From a position of mediocrity, the University of Padua gradually rose to
one of worldwide celebrity. Galileo remained at Padua from Fifteen Hundred
Ninety-two to Sixteen Hundred Ten, which years are famous not alone
through the wonderful inventions of Galileo, but because in that same
interval of time, at least thirty of Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays were
written. Surely, God was smiling on the planet Earth!
Galileo's salary was raised every year, starting at two hundred florins,
until it reached over one thousand florins, not to mention the numerous
gifts from grateful pupils, old and young. Students came to Padua from all
over the world to hear Galileo's lectures.
Starting with only a common classroom, the audience increased so fast that
a special auditorium was required that would seat two thousand persons. It
was during this time that Galileo invented the proportional compasses, an
instrument now in use everywhere, without the slightest change having been
made in it.
He also invented the thermometer; but greatest, best and most wonderful of
all, he produced an instrument through which he could view the stars, and
see them much magnified. With this instrument, he saw heavenly[Pg 67]
bodies that had never been seen before; he beheld that Jupiter had
satellites which moved in orbits, and that Venus revolved, showing
different sides at different times, thus proving that which Copernicus
declared was true, but which, for lack of apparatus, he could not prove.
Galileo Galilei was getting to be more than a professor of mathematics—he
was becoming a power in the world.
The lever of his mighty mind was indeed finding a fulcrum.[Pg 68]
he year Sixteen Hundred Nine is forever fixed in history, through the fact
that in that year Galileo invented the telescope.
Every good thing is an evolution. "Specilla," or helps to read, had been
made, and sold privately and mysteriously, as early as the year Fourteen
Hundred. These first magnifying-glasses were associated with magic, or
wonder-working; the words "magnify" and "magic" having a common source and
a similar meaning. Magicians wore big square glasses, and by their aid,
some of them claimed to see things at a great distance; and also to
perceive things stolen, hidden or lost. Occasionally, the magician would
persuade his customer to try on the glasses, and then even common men
could see for themselves that there was something in the scheme—goodness
me! The use of spectacles was at first confined entirely to these
wonder-workers—or men who magnified things forever. During the Fifteenth
Century, public readers and occasionally priests wore spectacles. To read
was a miracle to most people, and a book was a mysterious and sacred
thing—or else a diabolical thing. The populace would watch the man put on
his "specillum," and the idea was everywhere abroad that the magic glasses
gave an ability to read; and that anybody who was inspired by angels, or
devils, who could get hold of spectacles, could at once read from a book.
We hear of one magician who, about the year Fifteen[Pg 69] Hundred, made a
box with a glass cover that magnified the contents. This great man would
catch a flea and show it to the people. Then he would place the flea in
the box and show it to them, and they would see that it had grown
enormously in an instant. The man could make it big or little, by just
taking off and putting on the cover of the box!
This individual worked wonders for a consideration, but Fate overtook him
and he was smothered under a feather bed for having too much wizard in his
cosmos. A wizard, be it known, is a male witch, and the Bible says, "Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live," although it does not say anything about
But please note this: the wizard who had that magic box and flea had
really the first microscope.
Galileo bought a pair of "magic glasses," or spectacles, about the year
Sixteen Hundred Seven; and his action, in so doing, was freely criticized.
On a visit to Venice, where glass had been manufactured since long before
the Flood, Galileo was looking through one of the glass-factories, just as
visitors do now, and one of the workmen showed him a peculiar piece of
glass which magnified the hairs on the back of his hand many times.
In a very few days after this, Galileo heard that a Dutch spectacle-maker
had placed certain queer-shaped pieces of glass in a tube, and offered to
sell this tube to the Government, so by its use, soldiers[Pg 70] could see
the movements of an enemy many miles away.
That night Galileo did not close his eyes in sleep. He thought out a plan
by which he could place pieces of glass in a tube, and bring the stars
close to the earth. By daylight the whole plan was clear in his mind, and
he hastened to the shop of the glassmakers.
There, two lenses were made, one plano-convex, and the other plano-concave,
and these were placed in a tube made of sheet copper. It was tested on
distant objects; and behold! they were magnified by three. Would this tube
show the stars magnified? Galileo knew of no reason why it should not, but
he paced his room in hot impatience, waiting for the night to come with
its twinkling wonders, that he might verify his convictions. When the
first yellow star appeared in the West, Galileo turned his tube upon it,
and behold! instead of twinkling points of light, he saw a round mass—a
world—moving through space, and not a scintillating object with five
points. The twinkling spikes, or points, were merely an optical illusion
of the unaided senses.
Galileo made no secret of his invention. It was called "Galileo's Tube,"
but some of the priests called it Galileo's "Magic Tube."
Yet it marked an era in the scientific world. Galileo endeavored
constantly to improve his instrument; and from a threefold magnifying
power, he finally[Pg 71] made one that magnified thirty-two times.
Galileo made hundreds of telescopes, and sold them at moderate prices to
any one who would buy. He explained minutely the construction of the
instrument, showing clearly how it was made in accordance with the natural
laws of optics. His desire was to dissipate the superstition that there
was something diabolical or supernatural about the "Magic Tube"—that, in
fact, it was not magic, and the operator had no peculiar powers; you had
simply to comply with the laws of Nature, and any one could see for
It is hard for us, at this day, to understand the opposition that sprang
up against the telescope. We must remember that at this time belief in
witchcraft, fairies, sprites, ghosts, hobgoblins, magic and supernatural
powers was common. Men who believe in miracles make rather poor
There were books about "Magic," written by so-called scientific men, whose
standing in the world was quite as high as that of Galileo.
In Sixteen Hundred Ten, Galileo published his book entitled, "Sidera
Medicea," wherein he described the wonders that could be seen in the
heavens by the aid of the telescope. Among other things, he said the Milky
Way was not a great streak of light, but was composed of a multitude of
stars; and he made a map of the stars that could be seen only with the aid
of the telescope.
There resided in Venice at this time a scientific man[Pg 72] by the name
of Porta, who was much more popular than Galileo. He was a priest, whose
piety and learning was unimpeached.
The year after Galileo issued his book, Porta put out a work much more
pretentious, called "Natural Magic." In this book Porta does not claim
that magicians all have supernatural powers; but he goes on to prove how
they deceive the world by the use of their peculiar apparatus, and
intimates that they sometimes sell their souls to the Devil, and then are
positively dangerous. He dives deep into science, history and his own
imagination to prove things.
The man was no fool—he constructed a kaleidoscope that showed an absolute,
geometrical symmetry, where in fact there was only confusion. He showed
how, by the use of mirrors, things could be made big, small, tall, short,
wide, crooked or distorted. He told of how magicians, by the use of
Galileo's Tube, could show seven stars where there was only one; and he
even made such a tube of his own and called the priests together to look
through it. He painted stars on the glass, and had men look at the
heavens. He even stuck a louse on the lens and located the beast in the
heavens, for the benefit of a doubting Cardinal. It was all a joke, but at
the time no sober, sincere man of Science could argue him down. He owned
"bum" telescopes that proved all kinds of things, to the great amusement
of the enemies of Galileo. The intent of Porta was to[Pg 73] expose the
frauds and fallacies of Galileo. Porta also claimed that he had seen
telescopes by which you could look over a hill and around a corner, but he
did not recommend them, since by their use things are often perceived that
were not there. And so we see why the priests positively refused to look
through Galileo's Tube, or to believe anything he said. Porta, and a few
others like him, showed a deal more than Galileo could and offered to
locate stars anywhere on order. Galileo had much offended these priests by
his statements that the Bible did not contain the final facts of Science,
and now they were getting even with a vengeance. It was all very much like
the theological guffaw that swept over Christendom when Darwin issued his
"Origin of Species," and Talmage and Spurgeon set their congregations in a
roar by gently sarcastic references to monkey ancestry.[Pg 74]
mid the general popping of theological small-arms, Galileo moved steadily
forward. If he had many enemies he surely had a few friends. As he once
had proved more than Pisa could digest, so now he was bringing to the
surface of things more truth than Padua could assimilate.
Venice too was getting uncomfortable. Even the Doge said, in reply to an
enthusiastic admirer of Galileo, "Your master is not famous: he is merely
It was discovered that Galileo had been living with a woman by the name of
Marina Gamba, at Venice, even while he held the professorship at Padua,
and that they had a son, Vincenzo Gamba, and two daughters. One of the
enemy drew a map of the heavens, showing Galileo as the sun, Marina Gamba
as the moon, and around them circulated numerous little satellites, which
were supposed to be their children. The picture had so great a vogue that
the Doge issued an order that all copies of it be destroyed.
Of Marina Gamba we know very little; but the fact that she made entries in
Galileo's journal and kept his accounts proves that she was a person of
considerable intelligence; and this, too, was at a time when semi-oriental
ideas prevailed and education was supposedly beyond the feminine grasp.
Galileo did not marry, for the reason that he was practically a priest, a
teacher in a religious school, living with and looking after the pupils;
and the custom[Pg 75] then was that whoever was engaged in such an
occupation should not wed.
The stormy opposition to Galileo was not without its advantages. We are
advertised no less by our rabid enemies than by our loving friends. Cosimo
the Second, Grand Duke of Tuscany, had intimated that Florence would give
the great astronomer a welcome. Galileo moved to Florence under the
protection of Cosimo, intending to devote all his time to Science.
In giving up schoolteaching and popular lecturing, Galileo really made a
virtue of necessity. No orthodox lyceum course would tolerate him; he was
neither an impersonator nor an entertainer; the stereopticon and the
melodramatic were out of his line, and his passion for truth made him
impossible to the many.
He was treading the path of Bruno: the accusations, the taunts and jeers,
the denials and denunciations, were urging him on to an unseemly
Father Clavius said that Galileo never saw the satellites of Jupiter until
he had made an instrument that would create them; and if God had intended
that men should see strange things in the heavens, He would have supplied
them sufficient eyesight. The telescope was really a devil's instrument.
Still another man declared that if the earth moved, acorns falling from a
high tree would all fall behind the tree and not directly under it.
Father Brini said that if the earth revolved, we would[Pg 76] all fall off
of it into the air when it was upside down; moreover, its whirling through
space would create a wind that would sweep it bald.
Father Caccini preached a sermon from the text, "Ye men of Galilee, why
stand ye gazing up into heaven?" Only he changed the word "Galilee" to
"Galileo," claiming it was the same thing, only different, and as reward
for his wit he was made a bishop.
Cardinal Bellarmine, a man of great energy, earnest, zealous, sincere,
learned—the Doctor Buckley of his day—showed how that: "if the Copernican
Theory should prevail, it would be the absolute undoing of the Bible, and
the destruction of the Church, rendering the death of Christ futile. If
the earth is only one of many planets, and not the center of the universe,
and the other planets are inhabited, the whole plan of salvation fails,
since the inhabitants of the other spheres are without the Bible, and
Christ did not die for them." This was the argument of Father Lecazre, and
many others who took their cue from him.
Galileo was denounced as "atheist" and "infidel"—epithets that do not
frighten us much now, since they have been applied to most of the really
great and good men who have ever lived. But then such words set fire to
masses of inflammable prejudices, and there were conflagrations of wrath
and hate against which it was vain to argue.
The Archbishop of Pisa especially felt it incumbent[Pg 77] upon him "to
bring Galileo to justice."
Galileo was born at Pisa, educated there, taught in the University; and
now he had disgraced the place and brought it into disrepute.
Galileo was still in communication with teachers at Pisa, and the
Archbishop made it his business to have letters written to Galileo asking
certain specific questions. One man, Castelli, declined to be used for the
purpose of entrapping Galileo, but others there were who loaned themselves
to the plan.
In Sixteen Hundred Sixteen, Galileo received a formal summons from Pope
Paul the Fifth to come to Rome and purge himself of heresies that he had
expressed in letters which were then in the hands of the Inquisition.
Galileo appealed to his friends at Florence, but they were powerless. When
the Pope issued an order, it could not be waived. The greatest thinker of
his time journeyed to Rome and faced the greatest theologian of his day,
The Cardinal firmly and clearly showed Galileo the error of his way.
Galileo offered to prove for the Cardinal by astronomical observations
that the Copernican Theory was true. Cardinal Bellarmine said that there
was only one truth and that was spiritual truth. That the Bible was true,
or it was not. If not, then was religion a fallacy and our hope of Heaven
Galileo contended that the death of Christ had[Pg 78] nothing to do with
the truth, so Science and these things should not be shuffled and
This attitude of mind greatly shocked the Inquisitors, and they made haste
to inform the Pope, who at once issued an order that the astronomer should
be placed in a dungeon until he saw fit to disavow that the sun was the
center of the universe, and the earth moves.
A sort of compromise, it seems, was here effected by Galileo's promise not
to further teach that the earth revolves.
He was kept at Rome under strict surveillance for some months, but was
finally allowed to return to Florence, and cautioned that he must cease
all public teaching, speaking and writing on the subject of astronomy. On
March Fifth, Sixteen Hundred Sixteen, the consulting theologians of the
Holy Office reiterated that the propositions of Galileo, that the sun is
the center of the universe, and that the earth has a rotary motion, were
"absurd in philosophy, heretical, and also contrary to Scripture."
The works of Copernicus were then placed upon the "Index," and Pope Paul
issued a special decree, warning all Churchmen to "abjure, shun and
forever abstain from giving encouragement, support, succor or friendship
to any one who believed or taught that the earth revolves."
The name of Copernicus was not removed from the "Index" until the year
Eighteen Hundred Eighteen.[Pg 79]
alileo made his way back to Florence, defeated and disappointed. He had
not been tortured, except mentally, but he had heard the dungeon-key
turned in the big lock and felt the humiliation of being made a captive.
The instruments of torture had been shown to him, and he had heard the
cries of the condemned.
The cell that Bruno had occupied was his, and he was also taken to the
spot where Bruno was burned: the place was there, but where was Bruno!
He realized how utterly impossible it was to teach truth to those who did
not desire truth, and the vanity of replying to men for whom a pun
answered the purposes of fact.
As he could neither teach nor lecture at Florence, his services to the
Court were valueless. He was a disgraced and silenced man.
He retired to a village a few miles from the city, and in secret continued
his studies and observations. The Grand Duke supplied him a small pension
and suggested that it would be increased if Galileo would give lectures on
Poetry and Rhetoric, which were not forbidden themes, and try to make
himself either commonplace or amusing.
We can imagine the reply—Galileo had but one theme, the wonders of the
heavens above.[Pg 80]
o the years went by, and Galileo, sixty-seven years old, was impoverished
and forgotten, yet in his proud heart burned the embers of ambition. He
believed in himself; he believed in the sacredness of his one mission.
Pope Paul had gone on his long journey, for even infallible popes die.
Cardinal Barberini had become Pope Urban the Eighth. Years before, Galileo
and Barberini had taught together at Padua, and when Galileo was silenced,
a long letter of sympathy had come from his old colleague, and
occasionally since they had exchanged friendly letters. Galileo thought
that Urban was his friend, and he knew that Urban, in his heart, believed
in the theory of Copernicus.
Galileo then emerged from his seclusion and began teaching and speaking in
Florence. He also fitted up an observatory and invited the scholars to
make use of his telescope.
Father Melchior hereupon put forth a general denunciation, aimed
especially at Galileo, without mentioning his name, to this effect: "The
opinion of the earth's motion is, of all heresies, the most abominable,
the most pernicious, the most scandalous: the immovability of the earth is
"An argument against the existence of God and the immortality of the soul
would be sooner tolerated than the idea that the earth moves."
In reply to this fusillade, in Sixteen Hundred[Pg 81] Thirty-two Galileo
put forth his book entitled, "The Dialogue," which was intended to place
the ideas of Copernicus in popular form.
Galileo had endeavored to communicate with Urban, but the Pope had chosen
to ignore him—to consider him as one dead. Galileo misconstrued the
silence, thinking it meant that he could do and say what he wished and
that there would be no interference.
A copy of Galileo's book reaching the Pope, his silence was at once
broken. The book was condemned and all copies found were ordered to be
burned by the hangman in the public streets. But the book had met with a
wide sale and many copies had been carried to Germany, England and France,
and in these countries the work was reprinted and sent back to Italy.
Urban ordered Galileo to present himself at Rome forthwith. A score of
years had passed since Galileo's former visit—he had not forgotten it.
He wrote to the Pope and apologized for having broken the silence imposed
upon him by Pope Paul; he offered to go into retirement again; stated that
he was old, infirm, without funds, and excused himself from obeying the
order to go to Rome.
But excuses and apologies were unavailing.
A preventory order was issued and sent to the Papal Nuncio at Florence.
This was equivalent to an arrest. Galileo must go to Rome and answer for
having broken the promises he[Pg 82] had made to the Inquisition. If he
would not go willingly, he should go in chains.
Arriving at Rome, he had several audiences with the Pope, who said nothing
would answer but a specific recantation.
What Barberini had once believed was one thing, and what the Pope must do
was another. Galileo should recant in order to keep the people from
thinking Pope Urban would allow what his predecessors would not.
The matter had become a public scandal.
Galileo tried to argue the question and asked for time to consider it.
An order was issued that he should be imprisoned. It was done.
Galileo asked for pens and paper that he might prepare his defense. These
were refused, and an order of torture was issued. It was not a trial,
defense was useless. Again he was asked to recant—the matter was all
written out—he had but to sign his name. He refused. He was brought to the
Legend and fact separate here.
There are denials from Churchmen that Galileo was so much as imprisoned.
One writer has even tried to show that Galileo was a guest of the Pope and
dined daily at his table. The other side has told us that Galileo was
thrust into a dungeon, his eyes put out, and his old broken-down form
tortured on the wheel.
Recent careful researches reveal that neither side told the truth. We have
official record of the case[Pg 83] written out at the time for the Vatican
archives. Galileo was imprisoned and the order of torture issued, but it
was never enforced. Perhaps it was not the intention to enforce it: it may
have been only a "war measure."
Galileo was alternately taken from dungeon to palace that he might realize
which course was best for him to pursue—oppose the Church or uphold it.
Thus we see that there was some truth in the statement that "he dined
daily with the Pope."
That the man was subjected to much indignity, all the world now knows. The
official records are in the Vatican, and the attempt to conceal them
longer is out of the question. Wise Churchmen no longer deny the blunders
of the past, but they say with Cardinal Satolli, "The enemies of the
Church have ever been o'er-zealous Churchmen."
On bended knees, Galileo, a man of threescore and ten, broken in health,
with spirit crushed, repeated after a priest these words: "I, Galileo
Galilei, being in my seventieth year, a prisoner, on my knees before your
Eminences, the Cardinals of the Holy See, having before mine eyes the Holy
Bible, which I touch with my hands and kiss with my lips, do abjure, curse
and detest the error and heresy of the movement of the earth."
He also was made to sign the recantation. On arising from his knees,
legend declares that he said, "Yet the earth does move!"[Pg 84]
It is hardly probable that the words reached his lips, although they may
have been in his mind. But we must remember the man's heart was broken,
and he was in a mental condition where nothing really mattered. To
complete his dishonor, all of his writings were placed on the "Index," and
he was made to swear that he would inform the Inquisition of any man whom
he should hear or discover supporting the heresy of the motion of the
earth. The old man was then released, a prisoner on parole, and allowed to
make his way home to Florence, which he did by easy stages, helped along
the way by friendly monks who discussed with him all questions but those
Galileo's eldest daughter, a nun, whose home was near his, was so affected
by the humiliation of her father that she fell into a nervous decline and
died very soon after he reached home.
Between these two there had been a close bond of love and tender sympathy,
and her death seemed almost the crowning calamity.
But once back in his village home at Arcetri, Galileo again went to work
with his telescope, mapping the heavens.
A goodly degree of health and animation came back to him, but his
eyesight, so long misused, now failed him and he became blind. Thus John
Milton found him in Sixteen Hundred Thirty-eight.[Pg 85]
Castelli, his lifelong friend, wrote to another, "The noblest eye that God
ever made is darkened: the eye so privileged that it may in truth be said
to have seen more wonderful things and made others to see more wonderful
things, than were ever seen before." But blindness could not subdue him
any more than it could John Milton. He had others look through the
telescope and tell him what they saw and then he would foretell what they
would see next.
The policy of the Pope was that Galileo should not be disturbed so long as
he kept to his village home and taught merely the few scholars or
"servants," as they called themselves, who often came to him; but these
were to be taught mathematics, not astronomy. That he was even at the last
under suspicion is shown that concealed in the mattress of the bed upon
which he died were records of his latest discoveries concerning the
revolution of the planets. Legal opposition was made as to his right to
make a will, the claim being that he was a prisoner of the Inquisition at
his death. For the same reason his body was not allowed to be buried in
consecrated ground. The Pope overruled the objection and he was buried in
an obscure corner of the little cemetery of Saint Croce, the grave
So the last few years of Galileo's life were years of comparative peace
and quiet. He needed but little, and this little his few faithful, loving
friends supplied. His death came painlessly, and his last moments were[Pg
86] sustained by the faith that he would soon be free from the trammels of
the flesh—free to visit some of the worlds that his telescope had brought
so near to him.
Galileo was born the day that Michelangelo died; the year of his death was
the year that Sir Isaac Newton, the discoverer of the law of gravitation,
was born.[Pg 87]