A short course focusing on the ‘Galileo Affair’, one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of science.

The ‘Galileo Affair’, as it has come to be known, remains one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of science. It is often taken as an illustration of the repressive attitude of the Catholic Church to the rise of modern science in the 17th century, and an example of the fundamental conflict between science and religion. Yet, it has been subject to distortion and myth, and continues to spark intense disagreement among historians, scientists and philosophers.

In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, in which he defended the Copernican view that the earth moves around the sun. He was duly summoned to appear before the Holy Roman Inquisition to answer the charge of vehement suspicion of heresy. Forced to recant, he was sentenced to serve the remaining 9 years of his life under house arrest. The fall out was enormous, and forever changed the way we view the relationship between science and religion. But what was the Galileo Affair really about? Was it simply the suppression of scientific truth by an oppressive religious authority? Or was it a more complex episode, in which doubts about scientific evidence could not be separated from the interpretation of Scripture, the political context of the Counter-Reformation, the turmoil of the thirty years war, and even Italian court culture?

This short course focused on these questions, in an attempt to shed light on this fascinating episode. Each session looked at a different historical perspective, delving beyond the myth, in search of a deeper understanding of one of the defining episodes of Western history.

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