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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Galileo Galilei

  • [An illustrious Italian philosopher, commonly called Galileo; born at Pisa, Feb. 15, 1564; professor of mathematics at Pisa, 1589; at Padua, 1592; discovered the law of the velocity of falling bodies; adopted the Copernican system; invented the astronomical telescope, by which he discovered the satellites of Jupiter; invited to Florence, 1611; forbidden by Paul V. to teach the doctrine of the motion of the earth; published (1632) “Dialogues on the Ptolemaic and Copernican Systems,”—the doctrines of which he was compelled to recant; visited by Milton, 1638; died at or near Florence, January, 1642.]
  • E pur si muove!

  • As he rose from the kneeling posture in which he signed his recantation of the Copernican doctrines of the relation of the earth to the solar system, Galileo is said to have whispered to a friend, “It moves, nevertheless.”
  • The exhaustive work, “Galileo Galilei and the Roman Curia,” London, 1879, in which Karl von Gebler dispels this and other fictions connected with the Italian philosopher, rests upon the Vatican manuscript containing the official account of the trial of Galileo, Napoleon ordered the publication of this important document, which, with the archives of the Vatican, was removed from Rome to Paris in 1811. Before this could he done, however, the empire fell, and the manuscript disappeared. After much search and diplomatic correspondence, it was found in 1845, and restored to Gregory XVI. by Louis Philippe. No good translation of it was, however, made until Von Gebler was permitted to copy it. Having studied “with diplomatic precision” the original Act of Galileo’s trial, Von Gebler, who is described as “a man of the strictest love of truth,” felt constrained to declare the manuscript to be genuine, although it compelled him to withdraw an opinion he had previously advocated.
  • From this manuscript and the Acts of the trial it is to be considered proven that no torture, as formerly asserted, was applied to Galileo, but that only a threat of torture was made to him; that he was lodged in the palace of the Inquisition, and was never thrown into its dungeons; that he was condemned in 1633, for doctrines which he had printed at Florence, with the ecclesiastical imprimatur, in 1632, but which had been denounced in 1615,—that “the sun is the centre of the world, and immovable, and that the earth moves, and also with a diurnal motion;” that the council decided that Galileo be absolved from all the censures and penalties imposed in the sacred canons against such delinquents, provided that he first abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies; that but seven of the ten cardinals composing the council signed this sentence; that, in accordance therewith, Galileo was compelled, immediately after hearing it read, to make a recantation, humbly kneeling, in which he abandoned “the false position that the sun is the centre of the world, and immovable, and that the earth is not the centre of the world, and moves;” that, on the day after sentence was passed, Urban VIII. exchanged imprisonment for temporary banishment near Rome, and afterwards to Siena.
  • “It is not known,” says Von Gebler, “who was the inventor of the assumed exclamation, E pur si muove, which sounds well, and has become a ‘winged word.’ Professor Heis, who has devoted a treatise to the origin of this famous saying, thinks that he has discovered its first appearance in the ‘Dictionnaire Historique,’ Caen, 1789. Professor Grisar tells us, however, that in the ‘Lehrbuch der Philosophischen Geschichte,’ published at Würzburg, 1774, fifteen years earlier, the following edifying passage occurs: ‘Galileo was neither sufficiently in earnest nor steadfast with his recantation; for the moment he rose up, when his conscience told him that he had sworn falsely, he cast eyes on the ground, stamped with his foot, and exclaimed, E pur si muove.’” “If,” adds Von Gebler, “Galileo had uttered these words, which are not attributed to him by any of his contemporaries, he would not have been released two days afterwards from the buildings of the Holy Office.” Nor is it true, as formerly asserted for partisan purposes, that his eyes were put out, or that he was obliged to recant in a hair shirt.