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Discovery Shows Galileo Edited His Ideas to Fool the Inquisition

Galileo Galilei knew that the earth revolved around the sun. But this was Rome at the dawn of 17th century, and the Church didn't see it that way. Galileo argued that scientific study and scripture should be independent of each other, because the Bible was written to be understood by the intended reader of the time. The struggle between Galileo and the Church went on for 20 years. He was ultimately convicted of heresy in 1633, and sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life. The early correspondence between Galileo and Vatican authorities of the time was hand-copied and redistributed, and is suspected to have been edited- how and by who is a matter of controversy. But the earliest evidence has been found. Galileo's original argument is in a 1613 letter to mathematician Benedetto Castelli. It was returned to Galileo for further refinement, and then was lost.   

The letter has been in the Royal Society’s possession for at least 250 years, but escaped the notice of historians. It was rediscovered in the library there by Salvatore Ricciardo, a postdoctoral science historian at the University of Bergamo in Italy, who visited on 2 August for a different purpose, and then browsed the online catalogue.

“I thought, ‘I can’t believe that I have discovered the letter that virtually all Galileo scholars thought to be hopelessly lost,’” says Ricciardo. “It seemed even more incredible because the letter was not in an obscure library, but in the Royal Society library.”

The newly-found letter contains quite a bit of editing by Galileo himself, and shines a light on the struggle between the scientist and the Church that shook the world. Read about the letter at Nature.  -via Metafilter


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