Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/403

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THE TRIAL OF GALILEO.

was pursuing the course of his great researches with the boldness of a man confident of his strength and of his fame, when certain slight indications no doubt warned him that it would not be disadvantageous, if he would carry on his researches in safety, to win the favor of the Sacred College. Accordingly he set out in 1611 for the Eternal City, without confessed misgiving, but with the ambition and expectation of interesting the most influential personages of the Roman court in his discoveries. He was nearing the decisive moment of his career. He had not as yet been disquieted by the objections of the theologians, though in prosecuting his studies of the constitution of the universe he was touching upon delicate questions which he could not expect to be permitted to discuss freely, without having first gained the sympathy, or at least the neutrality, of the Church. The court of Rome at that time exercised such moral authority in Italy, and especially at Florence, where Galileo resided, that people in some sense waited for her decision before they would accept the best-established conclusions in astronomy. The Grand-duke of Tuscany could not but be pleased at the discovery of Jupiter's satellites, announced in the "Sidereus Nuncius;" and he was all the more ready to believe, because these new heavenly bodies had received his family name: yet his own secretary had to admit that the discovery would never receive the unanimous assent of the learned world until it was approved and verified at Rome. There sat the Roman College, a regular tribunal, scientific as well as theological, whose decrees were law in Catholic countries.

Galileo, who was a man of rare good sense, and perfectly conversant with the ways of the world, had in advance formed at Rome the best and the most powerful of relations. Besides, he came there in a sort of official capacity, at the grand-duke's charges, and he was entertained there by the Tuscan embassador. Prelates, cardinals, princes, vied with one another for the honor of offering fétes and banquets to the most illustrious representative of Italian science. At the palace of Cardinal Bandini, in the beautiful gardens of the Quirinal, in the villa of the Marquis Cesi on the summit of the Janiculan, Galileo delighted a society of élite by having them contemplate, during the serene nights of April, the vault of heaven through the telescope which he had recently invented, and which bears his name. He awakened a genuine enthusiasm one day when, after dinner, he pointed his telescope toward St. John of Lateran, three miles distant, and enabled the guests to read the inscription upon the façade of that basilica.

His arguments did not equally convince all of those who were present at his astronomical observations, and who listened to the explanation he gave of the movement of Jupiter's four satellites, the inequalities of the moon's surface, and the phases of Venus and Saturn, and to the discussions he carried on with those who opposed his views. His