The dangerous dialogue
In reality, Galilei was put under house arrest in his Tuscan villa, where he could spend the rest of his life (he died nine years later) in relative luxury. The subject of the trial, a book, was put on the infamous Index, the church’s list of forbidden books, from which it was only removed in 1835.
|English: * Description: Tomb of Galileo Galilei (Location: Santa Croce, Florence, Italy.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
That “pagan” book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was originally written in Italian in 1632. Only now, after nearly 400 years, has it been translated into Dutch.
In Dialogue, Galilei introduced his “new” world view, with the earth moving and spinning around the sun – taking away the former status of the earth as centre of the universe. It was a clear rejection of the philosophy of Aristotle, which was, in Galilei’s time, the main theory on how nature worked.
“Above all, Galilei wrote his book in a very understandable manner, so that even the common man could understand his ideas,” says Hans van den Berg, who has translated the Dialogue into Dutch. “Maybe that was why the church was so concerned about it. Also, the original is in Italian and not in Latin, which made this book accessible for everyone in Italy who could read – and not only for academics and priests who understood Latin.”
|A replica of the earliest surviving telescope attributed to Galileo Galilei, on display at the Griffith Observatory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
And what, according to Van den Berg, makes the Dialogue so special? “First of all, it’s the content: Galilei gives fierce opposition to the theory of Aristotle, who was at that time the Catholic Church’s ‘house philosopher’. The science in this book really was revolutionary. Galilei’s ideas about movement, speed and acceleration were totally new – and, most importantly, they were backed up by evidence, thanks to the many observations he made with his self-constructed telescopes.”
And the book is, says the Dutch translator, “astonishingly well written. Galilei limited the pure maths to a minimum. And, like the title says, he wrote in a highly polemical way. He presents his ideas during a fictional discussion between three people: Salviati, who shares Galilei’s point of view; Sagredo, a neutral moderator; and Simplicio, a dedicated follower of Aristotle.” As you might have guessed, simplicio means “simpleton” in Italian.
|Mural of Galileo Galilei (Photo credit: Children of the Concrete)|