A fresh interpretation of the life of Galileo Galilei, one of history’s greatest and most fascinating scientists, that sheds new light on his discoveries and how he was challenged by science deniers. “We really need this story now, because we’re living through the next chapter of science denial” (Bill McKibben).
Galileo’s story may be more relevant today than ever before. At present, we face enormous crises—such as the minimization of the dangers of climate change—because the science behind these threats is erroneously questioned or ignored. Galileo encountered this problem 400 years ago. His discoveries, based on careful observations and ingenious experiments, contradicted conventional wisdom and the teachings of the church at the time. Consequently, in a blatant assault on freedom of thought, his books were forbidden by church authorities.
Astrophysicist and bestselling author Mario Livio draws on his own scientific expertise to provide captivating insights into how Galileo reached his bold new conclusions about the cosmos and the laws of nature. A freethinker who followed the evidence wherever it led him, Galileo was one of the most significant figures behind the scientific revolution. He believed that every educated person should know science as well as literature, and insisted on reaching the widest audience possible, publishing his books in Italian rather than Latin.
Galileo was put on trial with his life in the balance for refusing to renounce his scientific convictions. He remains a hero and inspiration to scientists and all of those who respect science—which, as Livio reminds us in this gripping book, remains threatened even today.
Astrophysicist Livio (Brilliant Blunders) explores the life of Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei, and the grim fate he met at the hands of the Catholic Church, in this entertaining biography. Born in Pisa in 1564, Galileo took to mathematics early on. Livio describes how Galileo's educated, if poor, parents hoped he would become a doctor. Instead Galileo became an underpaid math professor at the University of Pisa and began the experiments that would make him famous. Livio vividly recounts Galileo's efforts to support his family and explore astronomer Copernicus's claims that the Earth went around the sun, instead of the reverse. With telescopes of his own making, Galileo revealed a universe of imperfections, which did not conform to accepted Aristotelian logic and made the Church's Jesuit scholars uncomfortable. Accused of holding theories "false and contrary to the divine and Holy Scripture," Galileo was condemned for heresy and forced to disavow his findings, spending his last years under house arrest. In a coda, Livio illuminates the parallels between the deniers of Galileo's scientific findings and those today who ignore the evidence of climate change. Intriguing and accessible, and packed with clever insights, Livio's latest gives readers plenty of think about.