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All Galileo had to do was give the Church a break and say that you could see it that way if you wanted to. The complaint is, in a way, the familiar torturer’s complaint: Why did you force us to do this to you? Although the twinship of Shakespeare and Galileo is one that we see retrospectively, another, even more auspicious twinning was noted and celebrated during Galileo’s lifetime: Galileo was born in Pisa on the day that Michelangelo died.In truth, it was probably about a week later, but the records were tweaked to make it seem so. Galileo spent his life as an engineer and astronomer, but his primary education was almost exclusively in what we would call the liberal arts: music, drawing, poetry, and rhetoric—the kind of thing that had made Michelangelo’s Florence the capital of culture in the previous hundred years.He took the competitive, empirical drive with which Florentine painters had been looking at the world and used it to look at the night sky.
In the fifteen-eighties, Galileo studied at the University of Pisa, where he absorbed the Aristotelian orthodoxy of his time—one as synthetic as most orthodoxy is.
There were Arab-spiced versions of Aristotle, which led first to alchemy and then to chemistry; more pious alternatives merged the Greek philosopher with St. They all agreed that what made things move in nature was an impetus locked into the moving things themselves.
But the painters and poets could look at the world, safely, through the lens of religious subjects; Galileo, looking through his lens, saw the religious non-subject.
They looked at people and saw angels; he looked at the heavens, and didn’t.
It’s astonishing to follow the three-way correspondence among Tycho Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo, and see how little time was lost in disseminating gossip and discovery. Kepler encouraged Galileo to announce publicly his agreement with the sun-centered cosmology of the Polish astronomer monk Copernik, better known to history by the far less euphonious, Latinized name of Copernicus.
His system, which greatly eased astronomical calculation, had been published in 1543, to little ideological agitation.
He promised to help the Venetian Navy, at the Arsenale, regain its primacy, by using physics to improve the placement of oars on the convict-rowed galleys.
Once there, he earned money designing and selling new gadgets.
He was, however, very close to his father, Vincenzo Galilei, a lute player and, more important, a musical theorist.
Vincenzo wrote a book, startlingly similar in tone and style to the ones his son wrote later, ripping apart ancient Ptolemaic systems of lute tuning, as his son ripped apart Ptolemaic astronomy.