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Galileo’s Legacy Essay

1282 words - 5 pages

     In papal Rome in the early 16th century the “Good Book” was the reference book for all scientists. If a theory was supported in its holy pages, or at the very least not contradicted, then the idea had a chance of find acceptance outside the laboratory. Likewise, no theory no matter how well documented could be viewed with anything but disdain if it contradicted with the written word of, or the Church’s official interpretation of scripture. For these reasons the Church suppressed helio-centric thinking to the point of making it a hiss and a byword. However, this did not keep brave men from exploring scientific reason outside the canonical doctrine of the papal throne, sometimes at the risk of losing their own lives. While the Vatican was able to control the universities and even most of the professors, it could not control the mind of one man known to the modern world as Galileo Galilei. Despite a wide array of enemies, Galileo embarked on a quest, it seems almost from the beginning of his academic career, to defend the Copernican idea of a helio-centric universe by challenging the authority of the church in matters of science. Galileo‘s willingness to stand up for what he held to be right in the face of opposition from Bible-driven science advocates set him apart as one of the key players in the movement to separate Church authority from scientific discovery, and consequently paved the way for future scientific achievement.
     Galileo even as a boy seemed destined to challenge the scientific thought of the day. He has often been characterized as a pioneer of rebellion against authority. If that was true then he was only following in his father’s footsteps. His Father, a revolutionary man in the world of music who spoke out against the music theories of his day, was quoted as saying, "It appears to me that those who try to prove an assertion by relying simply on the weight of authority act very absurdly" (White, 196). Galileo continued in his father’s rebellion against contemporary views with his support of a helio-centric-universe, a view previously argued by Copernicus, but for the most part ignored by scientists for its contradiction with the established, church-endorsed system of Ptolemy.
     Despite his reputation for being an enemy of the church, Galileo was actually a devout Catholic who committed both of his daughters to convents. He was good friends with a number of high-up Catholic authorities, including Pope Barberini, the Pope who was in power for the latter part of Galileo’s life. Earlier in life Galileo even tried, against the advice of his friends, to get an audience with the pope to convince him of the truth of the Copernican system. Unfortunately his request for an audience was met with a papal decree that helio-centric views, those espoused by Galileo and also by Copernicus, were heretical. Galileo persisted with his views but obeyed...

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