Heaven and Earth Collide at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century

At the turn of the seventeenth century many new ideas were revolving in people’s heads—

“celestial revolutions” were taking place.


Galileo sketches

Observations and sketches in Galileo’s notebooks


Calling themselves “natural philosophers,” men such as Bernardino Telesio and Tommaso Campanella explored natural phenomena, emphasizing the importance of  gaining knowledge of the world through the evidence of the senses.



Telesio Campanella

Bernardino Telesio                                                                   Tommaso Campanella

Because many of their ideas contradicted religious dogma, natural philosophers were often in conflict with the Holy Roman Inquisition.  Campanella was imprisoned for thirty years.

Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his beliefs.

19th-century monument to Bruno on the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome, the site of his execution

The Catholic Church, feeling these new ideas threatened its doctrines, began to crack down on dissenting beliefs. In 1559, censorship of books in the form of the Papal Index was instituted.




In order to be printed in the Catholic world, every book, no matter its subject matter, had to bear the “imprimatur” or official stamp of approval of the church authorities.




Despite censorship, the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries witnessed enormous scientific and technological advances of every kind in Italy.


An illustration from Agostino Ramelli’s  Various and Ingenious Machines



Often developments in mathematics or anatomy went hand in hand with artistic innovations.


Images from Leonardo da Vinci and Luca Pacioli’s Divina proportione




A page of Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica, illustration from Titian’s workshop

Above all, one man – Galileo Galilei – forever changed how we would view our place in the cosmos.


Justus Sustermans, Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636





galileodialogueworld systems

Galileo Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems


More from Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius on the site: http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/heraldsofscience/



Galileo’s telescope


Here is a link to a site where you can view the original manuscripts of Galileo’s notes on motion:


Galileo opera omnia



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