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Authors offer cultural background on church conflict with Galileo


This is the cover of "Galileo's Telescope: A European Story" by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota and Franco Giudice, translated by Catherine Bolton. The book is reviewed by Brian Welter. (CNS)

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"Galileo's Telescope: A European Story" by Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Camerota and Franco Giudice, translated by Catherine Bolton. Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2015). 340 pp., $35.

As reflected in the subtitle, "A European Story," the authors of "Galileo's Telescope" present Galileo's astronomical discoveries of 1609-11 -- resulting from his modification of the Dutch "spyglass" -- as a European phenomenon that was as much philosophical and cultural as scientific.

The continent's leading political and social actors, in fact, desired and often received one of the great mathematician's telescopes, the best in the world, more than astronomers did.

The three authors' detective work, sifting through letters such as those between Galileo and Johannes Kepler, helps us see the strongly opinionated personalities involved in the great upheaval. As they note, Galileo gave to the world a new sky, one no longer pure and populated by angels and heavenly spheres, but one as corrupt and prone to decomposition as the Earth. The authors succeed in conveying the revolutionary nature of Galileo's work.

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