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Galileo — Astronomical Discoveries (ii)

by John Lord, LL. D. Galileo has now attained the highest object of his ambition. He is at the head, confessedly, of all the scien- tific men of Europe. He has an ample revenue; he is independent, and has perfect leisure. Even the Pope is gracious to him when he makes a visit to Rome; while cardinals, princes, and ambassadors rival one an- other in bestowing upon his attention and honors. But there is no height of fortune from which a man may not fall; and it is usually the proud, the ostenta- tious, and the contemptuous who do fall, since they create envy, and are apt to make social mistakes. Gal- lileo continued to exasperate his enemies by his arro- gance and sarcasms. "They refused to be dragged at his chariot-wheels." "The Aristotelian professors," says Brewster, "the temporizing Jesuits, the political church- men, and that timid but respectable body who at all times dread innovation, whether it be in legislation of science, entered into an alliance against the philosoph- ical tyrant who threatened them with the penalties of knowledge." The church dignitaries were especially hostile, since they thought the tendency of Galileo's investigations was to undermine the Bible. Flanked by the logic f the schools and the popular interpreta- tion of Scripture, and backed by the civil power, they were eager for war. Galileo wrote a letter to his friend the Abbé Castelli, the object of which was "to prove that the Scriptures were not intended to teach science and philosophy," but to point out the way to salvation. He was indiscreet enough to write a longer letter of seventy pages, quoting the Fathers in support of his views, and attempting to show that Nature and Scrip- ture could not speak a different language. It was this reasoning which irritated the dignitaries of the Church more than his discoveries, since it is plain that the literal language of Scripture upholds the doctrine that the sun revolves around the earth. He was wrong or foolish in trying to harmonize revelation and science. He should have advanced his truths of science and left them to take care of themselves. He should not have meddled with the dogmas of his enemies: not that he was wrong in doing so, but it was not polite or wise; and he was not called upon to harmonize Scripture with science. So his enemies busily employed themselves in collect- ing evidence against him. They laid their complaints before the Inquisition of Rome, and on the occasion of paying a visit to that city, he was summoned be- fore that tribunal which has been the shame and the reproach of the Catholic Church. It was a tribunal utterly incompetent to sit upon his case, since it was ignorant of science. In 1615 it was decreed that Gali- leo should renounce his obnoxious doctrines, and pledge himself neither to defend nor publish them in the future. And Galileo accordingly, in dread of prison, appeared before Cardinal Bellarmine and declared that he would renounce the doctrines he had defended. The cardinal was not an ignorant man. He was the greatest theolo- gian in the Catholic Church; but his bitterness and ran- cor in reference to the new doctrines were as marked as his scholastic learning. The Pope, supposing that Galileo would adhere to his promise, was gracious and kind. But the philosopher could not resist the temptation of ridiculing the advocates of the old system. He called them "paper philosophers." In private he made a mockery of his persecutors. One Saisi undertook to prove from Suidas that the Babylonians used to cook eggs by whirling them swiftly on a sling; to which he replied: "If Saisi insists on the authority of Suidas, that the Babylonians cooked eggs by whirling them on a sling, I will believe it. But I must add that we have eggs and slings, and strong men to whirl them, yet they will not become cooked; nay, if they were hot at first, they more quickly become cool; and as there is nothing wanting to us but to be Babylonians, it follows that Being Babylonians is the true cause why the eggs became hard." Such was his prevailing mockery and ridicule. "Your Eminence," write one of his friends to the Cardinal D'Este, "would be delighted if you could hear him hold forth in the midst of fifteen or twenty, all violently attacking him, sometimes in one house, and sometimes in another; but he is armed after such a fashion that he laughs them all to scorn." Galileo, after his admonition from the Inquisition, and his promise to hold his tongue, did keep compara- tively quiet for a while, amusing himself with mechan- ics, and striving to find out a new way of discovering longitude at sea. But the want of better telescopes baffled his efforts; and even to-day it is said "that no telescope has yet been made which is capable of observ- ing at sea the eclipses of Jupiter's satellites, by which on shore this method of finding longitude has many advantages." On the accession of a new Pope (1623), Urban VIII., who had been his friend as Cardinal Barberini, Galileo, after eight years of silence, thought that he might now venture to publish his great work on the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems, especially as the papal censor also had been his friend. But the publication of the book was delayed nearly two years, so great were the obsta- cles to be surmounted, and so prejudiced and hostile was the Church to the new views. At last it appeared in Florence in 1632, with a dedication to the Grand Duke,——not the Cosimo who had rewarded him, but his son Ferdinand, who was a mere youth. It was an un- fortunate thing for Galileo to do. He had pledged his word not to advocate the Copernican theory, which was already sufficiently established in the opinions of phi- losophers. The form of the book was even offensive, in the shape of dialogues. One of them he ridiculed under the name of Simplicio. This was supposed to mean the Pope himself,——so they made the Pope believe, and he was furious. Old Cardinal Bellarmine roared like a lion. The whole Church, as represented by its dignita- ries, seemed to be against him. The Pope seized the old weapons of the Clements and the Gregorians to hurl upon the daring innovator; but delayed to hurl them, since he dealt with a giant, covered not only by the shield of the Medici, but that of Minerva. So he convened a congregation of cardinals, and submitted to them the examination of the detested book. The author was summoned to Rome to appear before the Inquisition, and answer at its judgement-seat the charges against him as a heretic. The Tuscan ambassador expostulated with his Holiness against such a cruel thing, considering Galileo's age, infirmities, and fame, ——all to no avail. He was obliged to obey the sum- mons. At the age of seventy this venerated philoso- pher, infirm, in precarious health, appeared before the Inquisition of cardinals, not one of whom had any familiarity with abstruse speculations, or even with mathematics. Whether out of regard to his age and infirmities, or to his great fame and illustrious position as the great- est philosopher of his day, the cardinals treat Galileo with unusual indulgence. Though a prisoner of the Inquisiton, and completely in its hands, with power of life and death, it would seem that he is allowed every personal comfort. His table is provided by the Tuscan ambassador; a servant obeys his slightest nod; he sleeps in the luxurious apartment of the fiscal of that dreaded body; he is even liberated on the responsi- bility of the cardinal; he is permitted to lodge in the palace of the ambassador; he is allowed time to make his defence; those holy Inquisitors would not unneces- sarily harm a hair on his head. Nor was it probably their object to inflict bodily torments: these would call out sympathy and degrade the tribunal. It was enough to threaten these torments, to which they did not wish to resort except in case of necessity. There is no evidence that Galileo was personally tortured. He was indeed a martyr, but not a sufferer except in humiliated pride. Probably the object of his enemies was to silence him, to degrade him, to expose his name to infamy, to arrest the spread of his doctrines, to bow his old head in shame, to murder his soul, to make him stab himself, and be his own executioner, by an act which all posterity should regard as unworthy of his name and cause. After a fitting time has elapsed,——four months of dignified session,——the mind of the Holy Tribunal is made up. Its judgement is ready. On the 22nd of June, 1633, the prisoner appears in penitential dress at the convent of Minerva, and the presiding cardinal, in his scarlet robes, delivers the sentence of the Court, ——that Galileo, as a warning to others, and by way of salutary penance, be condemned to the formal prison of the Holy Office, and be ordered to recite once a week the seven Penitential Psalms for the benefit of his should,——apparently a light sentence, only to be nominally imprisoned a few days, and to repeat those Psalms which were the life of blessed saints in mediæ- val times. But this was nothing. He was required to recant, to abjure the doctrines he had taught; not in private, but publicly before the world. Will he recant? Will he subscribe himself an imposter? Will he abjure the doctrines on which his fame rests? Oh, tell it not in Gath! The timid, infirm, life-loving old patriarch of science falls. He is not great enough for martyrdom. He chooses shame. In an evil hour this venerable sage falls down upon his knees before the assembled cardinals, and reads aloud this recantation: "I, Galileo Galilei, aged seventy, on my knees before you most reverend lords, and having my eye on the Holy Gospel, which I do touch with my lips, thus publish and declare, that I believe, and always have believed, and always will believe every article which the Holy Catholic Roman Church holds and teaches. And as I have written a book in which I have main- tained that the sun is the centre, which doctrine is re- pugnant to the Holy Scriptures, I, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, do abjure and detest, and curse the said error and heresy, and all other errors contrary to said Holy Church, whose penance I solemnly swear to observe faithfully, and all other penances which have been or shall be laid upon me." It would appear from this confession that he did not declare his doctrines false, only that they were in opposition to the Scriptures; and it is also said that as he arose from his knees he whispered to a friend, "It does move, nevertheless." As some excuse for him, he acted with the certainty that he would be tortured if he did not recant; and at the worst he had only affirmed that his scientific theory was in opposition to the Scriptures. He had not denied his master, like Peter; he had not recanted the faith like Cranmer; he had simply yielded for fear of bodily torments, and therefore was not sincere in the abjuration which he made to save his life. Nevertheless, his recantation was a fall, and in the eyes of the scientific world per- haps greater than that of Bacon. Galileo was false to philosophy and himself. Why did he suffer himself to be conquered by priests and despised? Why did so bold and witty and proud a man betray his cause? Why did he not accept the penalty of intellectual freedom, and die, if he must? What was life to him, dis- eased, infirm, and old? What had he more to gain? Was it not a good time to die and consummate his protests? Only one hundred and fifty years before, one of his countrymen had accepted torture and death rather than recant his religious opinions. Why could not Galileo have been as great in martyrdom as Savon- arola? He was a renowned philosopher and brilliant as a man of genius,——but he was a man of the world; he loved ease and length of days. He could ridicule and deride opponents,——he could not suffer pain. He had a great intellect, but not a great soul. There were flaws in his morality; he was anything but a saint or hero. He was great in mind, and yet he was far from being great in character. We pity him, while we exalt him. Nor is he world harsh to him; it forgives him for his services. The worst that can be said, is that he was not willing to suffer ad die for his opinions: and how many philosophers are there who are willing to be martyrs? Nevertheless, in the eyes of philosophers he has dis- graced himself. Let him then return to Florence, to his own Arceti. He is a silenced man. But he is silenced, not because he believed with Copernicus, but because he ridiculed his enemies and confronted the Church, and in the eyes of blinded partisans had attacked divine authority. Why did Copernicus escape persecution? The Church must have known that there was something in his discoveries, and in those of Gali- leo, worthy of attention. About this time Pascal wrote: "It is vain that you have procured the con- demnation of Galileo. That will never prove the earth to be at rest. If unerring observation proves that it turns round, not all mankind together can keep it from turning, or themselves from turning with it." But let that persecution pass. It is no worse than other persecutions, either in Catholic or Protestant ranks. It is no worse than burning witches. Not only is intolerance in human nature, but there is a repugnance among the learned to receive new opinions when these interfere with their ascendency. The op- position to Galileo's discoveries was no greater than that of the Protestant Church, half a century ago, to some of the inductions of geology. How bitter the hatred, even in our times, to such men as Huxley and Darwin! True, they have not proved their theories as Galileo did; but they gave a great shock as he to the minds of theologians. all science is progressive, yet there are thousands who oppose its progress. And if learning and science should establish a different mean- ing to certain texts from which theological deductions are drawn, and these premises be undermined, there would be the same bitterness among the defenders of the present system of dogmatic theology. Yet theology will live, and never lose its dignity and importance; only, some of its present assumptions may be discarded. God will never be dethroned from the world he gov- erns; but some of his ways may appear to be different from what was once supposed. And all science is not only progressive, but it appears to be bold and scornful and proud,——at least, its advocates are and ever have been contemptuous of all other departments of knowl- edge but its own. So narrow and limited is the human mind in the midst of its triumphs. So full of preju- dices are even the learned and the great. Let us turn then to give another glance at the fallen philosopher in his final retreat at Arceti. He lives under restrictions. But hey allow hi leisure and choice wines, of which he is fond, and gardens and friends; and many come to do him reverence. He amuses his old age with the studies of his youth and manhood, and writes dialogues on Motion, and even discovers the phenomena of the moon's libration; and by means of the pendulum he gives additional impor- tance to astronomical science. But he is not allowed to leave his retirement, not even to visit his friends in Florence. The wrath of the Inquisition still pursues him, even in his villa at Arceti in the suburbs of Florence. Then renewed afflictions come. He loses his daughter, who was devoted to him; and her death nearly plunges him into despair. The bulwarks of his heart break down; a flood of grief overwhelms his stricken soul. His appetite leaves him; his health forsakes him; his infirmities increase upon him. His right eye loses its power,——that eye that had seen more of the heavens than the eyes of all who had gone before him. He became blind and deaf, and cannot sleep, afflicted with rheumatic pains and maladies for- lorn. No more for him is rest, or peace, or bliss; still less the glories of his brighter days,——the sight of glit- tering fields, the gems of heaven, without which "Neither breath of Morn, when she ascends With charm of earliest birds, nor rising sun On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, flower Glittering with dew, nor fragrance after showers, nor grateful evening mild, . . . is sweet." No more shall he gaze on features that he loves, on stars, or trees, or hills. No more to him "Returns Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn, or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose, Or flocks, ir herds, or human face divine; But clouds, instead, and ever-during dark Surround" [him]. It was in those dreary desolate days at Arceti, "Unseen In manly beauty Milton stood before him, Gazing in reverent awe,——Milton, his guest, Just then come forth, all life and enterprise; While he in his old age, . . . . . . exploring with his staff, His eyes upturned as to the golden sun, His eyeballs rolling." This may have been the punishment of his recanta- tion,——not Inquisitorial torture, but the consciousness that he had lost his honor. Poor Galileo! thine illus- trious visitor, when his affliction came, could cast his sightless eyeballs inward, and see and tell "things un- attempted yet in prose or rhyme,"——not "Rocks, caves, lakes, bogs, fens, and shades of death, . . . . . . . . . Where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds . . . . . . . . . Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire," but of eternal Providence," and "Eden with surpass- ing glory crowned," and our first parents," and of "salvation," "goodness infinite," of "wisdom," which when we know we need no higher though all the stars we know by name,——— "All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works, Or works of God in heaven, or air, or sea." And yet, thou stricken observer of the heavenly bodies! hadst thou but known what marvels would be revealed by the power of thy wondrous instrument after thou should'st be laid lifeless and cold beneath the marble floor of Santa Croce, at the age of seventy-eight, without a monument (although blessed on his death- bed by Pope Urban), having died a prisoner of the Inquisition, yet not without having rendered to astro- nomical science services of utmost value,——even thou might have died rejoicing, as one of the greatest bene- factors of the world. And thy discoveries shall be forever held in gratitude; they shall herald others of even greater importance. Newton shall prove that the different planets are attracted to the sun in the inverse ratio of the squares of their distances; that the earth has a force on the moon identical with the force of gravity, and that all celestial bodies, to the utmost boundaries of space, mutually attract each other; that all particles of matter are governed by the same law,——the great law of gravitation, by which "astronomy," in the language of Whewell, "passed from boyhood to manhood, and by which law the great discoverer added more to the realm of science than any man before or since his day." And after Newton shall pass away, honored and lamented, and be buried with almost royal pomp in the vaults of Westminster, Halley and other mathematicians shall construct lunar tables, by which longitude shall be accurately measured on the pathless ocean. Lagrange and Laplace shall apply Newtonian theory to de- determine the secular inequalities of celestial motion; they shall weigh absolutely the amount of matter in the planets; they shall show how far their orbits de- viate from circles; and they shall enumerate the cycles of changes detected in the circuit of the moon. Clai- raut shall remove the perplexity occasioned by the seeming discrepancy between the observed and com- puted motions of the moon's perigee. Halley shall demonstrate the importance of observations of the tran- sit of Venus as the only certain way of obtaining the sun's parallax, and hence the distance of the sun from the earth; he shall predict the return of that myste- rious body which we call a comet. Herschel shall con- struct a telescope which magnifies two thousand times, and add another planet to our system beyond the mighty orb of Saturn. Römer shall estimate the velocity of light from the eclipse of Jupiter's satel- lites. Bessel shall pass the impassable gulf of space and measure the distance of some of the fixed stars, although such is the immeasurable space between the earth and those distant suns that the parallax of only about thirty has yet been discovered with our finest instruments,——so boundless is the material universe, so vast are the distances, that light, travelling one hun- dred and sixty thousand miles with every pulsation of the blood, will not reach us from some of those remote worlds in one hundred thousand years. So marvellous shall be the victories of science, that the perturbations of the planets in their courses shall reveal the exist- ence of a new one more distant than Uranus, and Leverrier shall tell at what part of the heavens that star shall first be seen. So far as we have discovered, the universe which we have observed with telescopic instruments has no limits that mortals can define, and in comparison with its magnitude our earth is less than a grain of sand, and is so old that no genius can calculate and no imag- ination can conceive when it had its beginning. All that we know is, that suns exist at distances we cannot define. But around what center do they revolve? Of what are they composed? Are they inhabited by intel- ligent and immortal beings? Do we know that they are not eternal, except from the divine declaration that there was a time when the Almighty fiat went forth for this grand creation? Creation involves a creator; and can the order and harmony seen in Nature's laws exist without supreme intelligence and power? Who, then, and what, is God? "Canst thou by searching find out Him? Knowest thou the ordinances of Heaven? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" What an atom is this world in the light of science! Yet what dignity has man by the light of revelation! What majesty and power and glory has God! What goodness, benevolence, and love, that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice,——that we are the special objects of His providence and care! Is there an imagination so lofty that will not be oppressed with the discoveries that even the telescope has made? Ah, to what exalted heights reason may soar when allied with faith! How truly it should elevate us above the evils of this brief and busy existence to the conditions of that other life,—— "When the soul, Advancing ever to the Source of light And all perfection, lives, adores, and reigns in cloudless knowledge, purity, and bliss!" AUTHORITIES. Dekambre, Histoire de l'Astronomie; Arago, Histoire de l'Astronomie; Life of Galileo, in Cabinet Library; Life of Galileo, by Brewster; Lives of Galileo, by Italian and Spanish Literary Men; Whewell's History of Inductive Sciences; Plurality of Worlds; Humboldt's Cosmos; Nichols' Architecture of the Heavens; Chalmers' Astronomical Discourses; Life of Kepler, Library of Useful Knowledge; Brewster's Life of Tycho Brahe, of Kepler, and of Sir Isaac Newton; Mitchell's Stellar and Planetary Worlds; Brad- ley's Correspondence; Airy's Reports; Voiron's History of Astronomy; Philosophical Transactions; Everett's Orations of Galileo; Life of Coper- nicus; Bayly's Astronomy; Encyclopædia Britannica, Art. Astronomy; Proctor's Lectures. 
from Beacon Lights of History, by John Lord, LL. D., Volume III, Part II: Renaissance and Reformation, pp. 447 - 463 Copyright, 1883, by John Lord. Copyright, 1921, By Wm. H. Wise & Co., New York
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