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The Reception of Copernicanism in Spain and Italy before 1800


Daniel J. Castellano




December 17, 2004


Final Draft


(with minor revisions, February 21, 2005)






Research Paper submitted to

Prof. Thomas Glick

and the Graduate Studies Committee

for the partial completion of the

Master of Arts in History

at Boston University




For too long, the polemical career of Galileo Galilei has been simplistically regarded as the focal point of a violent collision between scientific liberty and ecclesiastical oppression.  Such analysis, as recent historians have noted,[1] ignores the radically different relationship that existed between theology and the natural sciences in the seventeenth century, and fails to treat the subject in the context of contemporary culture.  In Spain and Italy, where the Holy Office’s condemnation of heliocentrism was most rigorously enforced, Catholic scientists and clerics of Copernican sympathies could still take positive action toward the acceptance of the new cosmology, even within the traditional mechanisms of authority.  Cultural resistance to heliocentrism was not founded upon merely theological grounds, but resulted from the intellectual community’s ossified conceptual matrix derived from the Greek classics.  Galileo recognized this, and hoped to supplant the existing structure with a nuova scienza, employing novel physical concepts and epistemology.  Such radical change was difficult to accept in post-Reformation Europe, and Galileo’s deliberately confrontational style admitted no compromise, alienating many of his sympathizers.  The real work of converting Catholic Europe to the Copernican view would be achieved not by a swift revolution, but by the slow, patient accumulation of facts and arguments articulated merely as hypotheses, as well as a cultural acclimation to new scientific concepts and a new understanding of the relationship between science and theology.  Although the narrative of this complex development has not received nearly as much attention as Galileo’s abortive reform, it had much broader cultural implications and more permanent results. 

In Italy, gradual reform took place on at least two levels.  First, a small core of Galilean disciples and loyalists persisted in Italy, long enough to gain the attention and support of “enlightened Catholics” in humanistic and scientific circles in the early eighteenth century.  Vincenzo Viviani, an ardent disciple of Galileo, was instrumental in restoring attention to his master’s life and works through the Bologna edition of the Opere (1656) and his influential Vita di Galileo (1717).   Celestino Galiani and other “enlightened Catholics” helped circulate Galileo’s Copernican works and the Newtonian science that confirmed them, often through the use of the illegal press in Naples.  These reformers were a diverse group, including deists and Pythagoreans as well as orthodox Catholics. The increased acceptance of Newtonian physics by Italian universities and academic clergy was shortly followed by the endorsement of Church authorities, most notably Pope Benedict XIV, who revoked the general prohibition of heliocentrism in 1744.

On another level, Jesuit astronomers pursued reform cautiously, espousing Copernicanism covertly, and challenging principles of Aristotelian cosmology where it was licit to do so. The Holy Office’s condemnation permitted the discussion of heliocentrism ex suppositione, and more than a few Jesuits took maximal advantage of this latitude, advocating Copernicanism as “saving the appearances” more perfectly than other models, without making assertions about physical reality.  Even before Galileo, Jesuit astronomers began to slowly remove conceptual obstacles to heliocentrism, such as the solidity of the heavenly spheres and the incorruptibility of heavenly bodies.  This gradual dissolution of the cosmic architecture of Aristotle’s De caelo and Ptolemy’s Almagestum, coupled with the acceptance of a new physico-mathematical analysis of dynamics, resolved most of the major intellectual objections to heliocentrism.  The last point of cognitive dissonance was theological, and only this obstacle prevented Jesuit astronomers from affirming the earth’s mobility, either as a matter of conscience or out of obedience.  These scruples persisted even after Pope Benedict’s relaxation of the prohibition of Copernicanism, and into the nineteenth century.

Spain experienced a general decline in the mathematical sciences during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, despite early efforts by the Jesuits to establish a mathematical academic culture.  Before 1616, Spain had actually been more receptive of Copernicus than the rest of Europe, but a host of factors combined to dissipate this early hope, not the least of which was the superior organization and rigor of the Spanish Inquisition.   Religious prohibition was only a small part of the story, as Spanish science suffered more generally from lack of state support, changing clerical demographics, and economic malaise.  While Spain lacked a scientific movement analogous to the novatores of Italy, the teachings of the latter entered the Iberian Peninsula through Italian Jesuits who occupied academic chairs, as well as through Spanish astronomers who kept extensive correspondences with their Italian counterparts.  Despite these efforts, Spanish intellectual culture remained largely hostile to any non-Aristotelian theory, whether Copernican, Cartesian or Newtonian, through the mid-eighteenth century.  Cultural isolation was accentuated in Spanish America, where Jesuits denounced Copernicanism as heretical decades after Rome had abandoned this position.  Notwithstanding this disadvantageous environment, there persisted a minority of Spanish scientists who were knowledgeable and accomplished heliocentrists, even in the remotest parts of the empire.  By the late eighteenth century, the spread of Enlightenment thought among Spanish intellectuals guaranteed their acceptance of Galileo and Newton, but popular culture resisted cosmological innovations well into the nineteenth century.

Overall, the responses of Spain and Italy to Copernicanism were conservative, slow, and cautious.  In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, there remained solid scientific grounds for opposing Copernicus’ theory, but as the scientific and philosophical objections to heliocentrism eroded, the principal barrier to its acceptance became increasingly theological.  Concern with obedience to the Congregation of the Index was naturally greatest in those nations where the authority of the Inquisition was strongest.  Intellectuals wishing to remain orthodox Catholics might have little difficulty discarding Aristotelian theses, but for many a conversion to Copernicanism would require a new way of understanding Biblical revelation.  Questions of exegetical principles and the authority to interpret Scripture impeded formal theological acceptance of Copernicus even after it became accepted de facto throughout Europe.  New understandings of the nature of divine inspiration and revelation would only gain wide currency among theologians in the nineteenth century, long after the scientific debate on heliocentrism had been decided.  This disparity between the rates of change in the scientific and theological communities helps account for the excruciatingly long process of reconciliation with Copernicus, which has no neatly defined concluding event, but ended in a gradual removal of prohibitions that had long ceased to be enforced.


Background: Early reception of Copernicus in Europe


            Born in Thorn (Torun), Germany (now Poland), Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) first encountered heliocentric theory during his studies in Italy.  Having begun his classical and mathematical education in Krakow, Copernicus studied in Bologna from 1496 to 1499, and returned to Italy in 1501 to study medicine at the University of Padua.  Records of his Italian education are scant and dubious.  The University of Bologna mentions a “Nicolaus de Alemania” enrolled in medicine in 1496, but this almost certainly was not Copernicus, who was known in Italy, as in Poland, as Nicolaus Thorunensis, and there were many other Poles and Germans studying at Bologna.[2] Similarly, the Atti del Collegio dei Medici has no record of Copernicus graduating from Padua, nor is his name mentioned anywhere.[3]  Nonetheless, his time in Bologna provided valuable exposure to humanist learning. In particular, he studied the Almagest following the commonly used abridged version, the Epitome in Almagestum Ptolemaei (1460-63) written by Georg Puerbach and his disciple, the German humanist Regiomontanus (born Johann Müller of Königsberg, 1436-1476).  He also encountered Aristarchus of Samos’ heliocentric theory, prompting him to test whether this model would result in more accurate astronomical computations.

            Although early ecclesiastical responses to Copernicus’ work were favorable, the astronomer kept his heliocentric ideas unpublished for fear of the violent reactions he expected from scholastic philosophers.  Copernicus gave mathematical lectures in Rome for the Jubilee of 1500, though there is no evidence that he asserted the mobility of the earth, much less that Pope Alexander VI was present.[4]  His earliest definitive declaration of a heliocentric view may be found in his manuscript, De hypothesibus motuum coelestium a se constitutis commentariolus (c. 1510-14), which he distributed only among trusted colleagues in 1514.  In 1533, Pope Clement VII received Copernicus’ disciple Widmannstadt, who lectured the pope and cardinals on his master’s opinions.  Pope Clement was sufficiently pleased that he rewarded the speaker with a handsome Greek codex of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ De sensu et sensibili.[5]  Despite receiving papal approval and encouragement from fellow clerics to publish, Copernicus continued to develop his ideas in private, now in retirement in Frauemberg (or Frombork, in modern Poland).  His reluctance to publish was based more on philosophical considerations than theological concerns, as evidenced in his preface and introduction, which addressed philosophical objections in systematic detail, while giving a cursory dismissal of potential theological challenges.[6]

            Both the mode of publication and the content of Copernicus’ work reflect a grave concern with upsetting the current intellectual order in the natural sciences.  Georg Joachim Rheticus (born von Lauchen, 1514-76), an astronomer at Wittenberg, published in 1540 the Narratio Prima, a summary of Copernicus’ heliocentric model, and two years later released the trigonometric portion of the work that would become De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543).  Rheticus was instrumental in convincing Copernicus to publish the entirety of his work, as was Cardinal Nicholas Schönberg of Capua.  Copernicus’ dedication of De revolutionibus to Pope Paul III focuses mainly on possible objections of philosophers who would disparage the theory as absurd and insane.  Fear of academic ridicule looms largest among Copernicus’ declared reasons for delaying publication: “…the scorn which I had reason to fear on account of the novelty and unconventionality of my opinion almost induced me to abandon completely the work which I had undertaken.”[7]   Andreas Osiander’s foreword was similarly preoccupied with philosophical reaction to the work.  Respecting the traditional hierarchy of the sciences, Osiander modestly held that astronomers do not intend to explain true physical causes, but construct models only to provide a more accurate calculus.  This gross misrepresentation of Copernicus’ intent was calculated to assuage fears that the “liberal arts” might be “thrown into confusion.”

            Early reactions to Copernicus’ work were predominantly negative throughout Europe.  Thanks to Rheticus’ efforts, heliocentrism was discussed among Lutherans even before the publication of De revolutionibus.  In 1539, the hypothesis was presented to Martin Luther, who promptly accused such astronomers of turning “the whole of astronomy upside down” out of love of cleverness and contrariety, and cited Joshua 10:12 as proof that the sun revolves around the earth.[8]  Philip Melanchthon spoke disparagingly of the idea of the earth’s mobility, though he admired Copernicanism as a mathematical theory and promoted it as such at Wittenberg.  Shortly after the dissemination of Copernicus’ ideas, several major European universities condemned heliocentrism: Zurich in 1533, the Sorbonne in 1576, and Tübingen in 1582.[9]  Besides Rheticus, the only openly heliocentric astronomer was Thomas Digges in England, who circulated a minor treatise on the subject, “Perfitt Description of the coelestiall orbes, according to the most ancient doctrine of the Pythagoreans, lately revived by Copernicus…” (1576).  Although there were many who valued Copernicanism as a computational device, it was extremely rare in the sixteenth century for an astronomer to advocate heliocentrism as a physical reality.

            An exceptionally tolerant attitude toward Copernicus appears to have prevailed at Salamanca, which, with Alcalá and Valladolid, was then one of the three great universities of Castile. The university’s 1561 statutes permitted teaching Copernicus, as did those of 1594 and 1625.  Hernando de Aguilera, the chairholder of astrology in the 1560s, invoked the statutes to allow the selection of Copernicus, with Ptolemy or Geber (the eighth century alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan) “al voto de los oyentes.”  In the 1594 statutes, there was no longer a vote: “El segundo cuatrienio léase a Nicolás Copérnico y las Tablas Plutérnicas, en la forma dada.”[10]  Despite the formal inclusion of Copernicus in the astrology curriculum, there is no evidence that De revolutionibus was ever actually read in a course at Salamanca.  A study of the Libros de Visitas de Cátedras (1561-1641) has revealed that Copernicus’ name is not mentioned once among the lists of works covered in lecture.  One possible oblique reference to Copernicus is found in the entry on 19 December 1616: “Va leyendo la Cosmografía de Ptolomeo y la comenzó ha un mes, por haber estado enfermo. Y va en la cuestion si la tierra se mueve. Lee bien en latín y entra y sale con su hora.”  The instructor, Master Roales, was then chairholder of astrology and continued to teach at Salamanca through 1620-21.[11]  Considering the severity of the Inquisition’s oversight in that period, it is highly unlikely that Roales would teach the mobility of the earth in 1616, except to denounce it, if he wished to keep his position.  It is also improbable that Copernicus was read outside of lecture, since the 1611 inventory of the university’s library does not mention a single volume of Copernicus. Of fourteen listed astronomical works, there are three copies of Ptolemy’s Cosmography, one of Michael Scot, as well as Peurbach, Regiomontanus, and Peter Apian.  Astronomical writings in Salamanca mostly cited Ptolemy, then Sacrobosco’s Sphere, as well as the Arab astrologer Alcabisi, the Tablas of Alfonso the Wise, the Epitome Almagestum and Peter Apian’s Cosmography – all Ptolemaic works.[12]  Salamanca’s statutes clearly establish that there was no institutional objection to studying Copernicus, so the disuse of De revolutionibus must be attributable to other factors, such as pedagogical simplicity, as Victor Navarro has suggested.

            The most noted Spanish exponent of Copernicanism was not an astronomer, but an Augustinian theologian, Diego de Zúñiga (1536-98) of Toledo, who argued that “Terram moveri non est contra Scripturam Sanctam,” without defying established norms of exegesis or altering the basic relationship between revelation and science.  In his 1584 work, In Iob commentaria, Zúñiga contended that the Bible actually favors heliocentrism.  Basing his argument on Job 9:6, “qui commovet terram de loco suo et columnae eius concutiuntur,” Zúñiga held that “there is no passage in the Holy Scriptures that says as clearly that the Earth does not move as this affirms that it does move.”  For example, Ecclesiastes 1:4, “Generatio praeterit et generatio advenit, terra vero in aeternum stat,” does not assert the immobility of the earth, but simply means that “the Earth remains the same and does not change.”  Zúñiga maintained, “The context would not turn out coherent if it spoke of an immobile Earth, as the philosophers affirm.”[13]  This early theological commentary on Copernicus concluded that Copernicanism is not only licit, but even favored by Scripture.  Zúñiga followed the usual rules of Biblical exegesis; he simply differed in their application.  Admittedly, his improbable interpretation of commovere (“to shake”) as describing orbital motion would not withstand criticism, and his analysis neglected the Tridentine exhortation to favor the interpretations of the Church Fathers.[14]  The Spanish Jesuit Joannis de Pineda (1558-1637) would later denounce Zúñiga’s interpretation of Job in Commentariorum in Job (1602).  Still, Zúñiga’s opinion was within the boundaries then permitted by Catholic orthodoxy, as evidenced by his freedom from reprisal in theologically rigorous Spain.

            Zúñiga’s effort to defend Copernicus theologically was likely motivated by his admiration of the system from an astronomical perspective.  As he elaborated:

With his theory, the positions of the planets are much better explained and in a much more certain manner than with the Magna Compositio of Ptolemy and with the opinions of other authors. Ptolemy, in effect, could not explain the precession of the equinoxes, nor present a certain and stable beginning of the year, as he himself recognizes…. On the contrary, Copernicus expounds and demonstrates in a very convincing way the explanations of these problems with the movement of the Earth, agreeing with all the other phenomena in a more satisfactory way.[15]


For Zúñiga, Copernicanism’s superiority in explaining phenomena is an argument for its physical reality, even though this presents some “grave difficulties,” such as the effects the earth’s daily rotation ought to have on projectiles. 

Contemporary astronomers often shared Zúñiga’s positive assessment of Copernicanism’s computational utility, yet, balking at physical or theological difficulties, they refused to assert the reality of the earth’s mobility.  Some, like Pedro Simón Abril in Filosofia natural (c. 1589), took an eclectic view that Copernicus and Ptolemy were equally valid mathematical theories, but most emphasized the reality of the earth’s immobility, even while regarding other aspects of Ptolemaic theory (eccentrics and epicycles) as fictitious.  Diego Pérez de Mesa, in Comentarios de sphera (1596), admitted it is “possible” that the earth moves through the heavens, but judged it “more likely [that the Earth] is at rest.”[16]  Even those who were not dogmatically opposed, scientifically or theologically, to the idea of a mobile earth nonetheless had understandable difficulty accepting the theory as more than a hypothesis.

After Rheticus and before Galileo, only two astronomers wholeheartedly espoused and studied heliocentrism as a physical reality: Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Giordano Bruno (1548-1600).  Using the observations of Tycho Brahe, which created serious, though not insurmountable, problems for the geocentric system, Kepler developed the geometric description of the solar system that would eventually be vindicated by Newtonian dynamics. More immediately, Kepler encouraged a reluctant Galileo (in their correspondence of 1597) to declare his Copernican views openly.  Giordano Bruno was less relevant to the long-term fortunes of heliocentrism, as his quasi-mystical concepts were of little scientific use.  His execution had little to do with his science, but was motivated primarily by his theological views, which rejected the efficacy of sacraments and intercessory prayer in favor of a monistic synthesis of “natural magic.”[17]  Thus, by Galileo’s time, the only scientific arguments in favor of Copernicanism remained purely mathematical.


Galileo’s Early Observations


            Copernicanism could not become more than a geometrical model of the cosmos until Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) began to observe physical attributes of the heavens that current physics could not explain.  In Sidereus nuncius (Venice, 1610), Galileo revealed his observations of the moon and the satellites of Jupiter, showing that the heavenly bodies were irregular and corruptible, and that there could be more than one center of revolution.  A more explicit denunciation of Aristotelianism would find expression in his work on sunspots, Le macchie solari (1613), which mercilessly contrasted “the Aristotelian heaven, and the heaven that is,” and ridiculed the Peripatetic belief “that to philosophize neither is nor can be other than to have great experience on the texts of Aristotle.”[18]  His observations of Venus’ phases definitively excluded the Ptolemaic system and proved that Venus, at least, orbited the sun.

            Responses to Galileo’s early observations in Italy ranged from warm acceptance to violent outrage.  The Jesuits at the Collegio Romano, though skeptical at first, soon confirmed the existence of Jupiter’s moons with their own telescope.  Giovan Paolo Lembo, who helped build the telescope, presented these findings in Lisbon in 1615-16.[19]  Most university professors, such as Ludovico delle Colombe (1565-1616), reacted virulently to Galileo’s strident anti-Aristotelianism, and produced a torrent of mechanical arguments against the rotational and translational motions of the earth.  Galileo dismissed some of these criticisms as pippionate (“stupidities”, and a play on Colombe’s name) that deserved no response, but he took some of them seriously enough to address extensively by developing a new inertial system of mechanics.[20]





Galileo and the Jesuits


            Prior to the condemnation of 1616, Galileo usually had a cooperative relationship with Jesuit scientists, who provided valuable empirical corroboration of his work.  Although Christopher Clavius (1537-1612), chief astronomer of the Collegio Romano, had written against the Copernican theory, he adopted some of its mathematical concepts and measures in the second edition of In Sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco Commentarius (1581).  Clavius was a geocentrist who believed the Ptolemaic system needed some mathematical modification to match modern observations, and in the fourth edition of his Commentarius (1593) he adopted such a system developed by Giovanni Antonio Magini in Novae coelestium orbium theoricae (1589).[21] Clavius’ biases did not prevent him from lending material support to Galileo, as he confirmed the existence of Jupiter’s satellites on 17 December 1610, and provided Galileo copies of his works and lecture notes. Clavius’ eventual successor, Christoph Grienberger, sided with Galileo on issues ranging from his discovery of sunspots to his argument on floating bodies.  It is little wonder, then, that Galileo confidently expected Jesuit support as he entered the polemical stage of his career.

            Clavius could afford to be broadminded about Galileo’s work largely because of his then common views that astronomical models were true only in a utilitarian sense.  He employed two mathematical methods: that of epicycles and eccentrics, and that of trigonometric tables.  The first is a double model, in which either eccentrics or epicycles[22] may be used equivalently, though Clavius preferred the former as simpler and easier.  The fact that two contradictory systems had equal predictive powers made it impossible for astronomers to adopt the belief that the veracity of a theory is proven by its ability to make accurate predictions. Clavius observed that epicycles could not literally exist, since this would contradict the solidity of the heavenly spheres, yet he saw neither model as true or false, but as more or less probable.[23]  This attitude was common among sixteenth century astronomers, a fact which Copernicus had attempted to exploit, arguing that, since other astronomers “had been granted the freedom to imagine any circles whatever for the purpose of explaining the heavenly phenomena,” he should have similar liberty.[24]  Systems of epicycles, eccentrics, and other constructs could freely contradict each other and the accepted principles of motion because of the disengagement between astronomy, which was a branch of mathematics, and physics (informed primarily by a logical analysis of the Aristotelian corpus), which alone described physical reality.   Given this functionalist understanding of astronomical theories, it is unsurprising that Clavius made use of Copernicus’ trigonometric tables; indeed, his personal copy of De revolutionibus is annotated only in the trigonometric part.[25]  Accuracy and truth were distinct in Clavius’ mind, since he was accustomed to deducing true facts from patently false premises.  The same mentality that made Clavius receptive to Galileo’s observations also caused him to remain reluctant to treat heliocentrism as physical reality.

            Christoph Grienberger (1561-1636) endorsed Galileo’s astronomical and mechanical discoveries much more wholeheartedly than did Clavius, yet he became muted in his support as Galileo made enemies in the Society of Jesus.  Grienberger had read Sidereus nuncius by October 1610, and personally ground the lenses for Lembo’s telescope that confirmed the presence of Jupiter’s moons.  Galileo examined their results during a 1611 visit to Rome: “I discovered that they had verified the actual existence of the new planets, and had been constantly observing them for two months; we compared notes and found that their observations agreed exactly with my own.”[26] Grienberger even sided with Galileo against a member of his own order, Christoph Scheiner, who disputed Galileo’s interpretation of sunspots and claimed priority of discovery.  He also upheld Galileo’s anti-scholastic view on buoyancy (that it was not dependent on shape).  In other matters, Grienberger was forced to be less explicit in his endorsement of Galileo.  Due to the strenuous opposition of Jesuit philosophers, Grienberger refrained from commenting on Le macchie solari, explaining to Galileo, “I don’t have the same freedom you do.”  He would not even contribute to Scheiner’s work on sunspots, for fear of controversy.  His endorsement of the Galilean version of buoyancy was similarly muted, as Giovanni Bardi explained, “Father Grienberger told me that if he hadn’t had to have respect for Aristotle, whom they are not supposed to oppose in any way by order of the General, but must always save, he would have spoken more clearly than he did.”[27]  As much as Grienberger and other Jesuit astronomers may have sympathized with Galileo’s work, the Society demanded deference to the higher science of philosophy.

            Just as the Society’s distrust of Galilean science derived from the traditional hierarchy of the sciences, so Grienberger’s admiration of the new science was based on a partial repudiation of the old order at the Collegio Romano.  Clavius had initiated this development with his proposal to create a mathematical curriculum, approved in 1594 by the new rector (and future cardinal) Robert Bellarmine.  Jesuits could now become professors of mathematics at Jesuit schools (but not Italian universities).[28]  Grienberger directed this “accademia di matematica” after Clavius’ death in 1612, and promoted higher esteem for his discipline.  Mathematics, he said in 1595, was in some ways more excellent than natural and metaphysical science, because in treating “the same matters it ascribes them to itself in such a way that in its object it nevertheless in no way defrauds the other [sciences].”  Mathematics, in this moderate view, was autonomous and fully competent to analyze its object, yet its results did not threaten the other sciences.  Giuseppe Biancani advanced a similar theme in De mathematicarum natura dissertatio (1615), which boldly argued that mathematics is a true science in the Aristotelian sense, since physics is impossible without geometry.[29] 

This ideal of disciplinary independence could not be realized within the political realities of contemporary academia.  Not only was the new mathematical physics denounced by Jesuit Aristotelians, but the Society’s leadership grew concerned that publishing these novelties could seriously damage the order’s reputation in the broader academic community.  Christoph Scheiner was forbidden to publish his views on sunspots under his own name, “lest he be mistaken and bring discredit on the Society.”[30]  Such fears were partially realized as Aristotelians in Italian universities angrily contradicted Jesuit confirmation of the Jupiter discoveries reported in Sidereus nuncius.  The ferocity of this antagonism made the Jesuits timid, but emboldened Galileo, who radicalized his tactics, rushing toward the disaster of 1616.


The Condemnation of 1616



            An amicable resolution to the Copernican controversy was nearly achieved in April 1615, when Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) responded to the Carmelite Paolo Foscarini’s (1580-1616) letter arguing that heliocentrism was fully compatible with Scripture.  As a friend and former classmate of Clavius, Bellarmine was as fortunate a choice to head the Congregation of the Index as Galileo could have hoped, knowledgeable in astronomy, yet stern in theology, having been a principal actor in the condemnation of Bruno.  Aristotelian physicists, unable to suppress heliocentrism on their own authority, could advise the Church to suppress it on theological grounds.  In February 1615, the Dominican monk Niccolo Lorini submitted to the Inquisition Galileo’s 1613 letter to Benedetto Castelli, which proposed a reconciliation of heliocentrism with Scripture.[31]  Foscarini hoped to forestall disaster by ascertaining Bellarmine’s position.  The cardinal’s response detailed the acceptable parameters within which Copernicanism could be discussed.

            Bellarmine maintained that the evidence favoring Copernicanism was not sufficient to permit discussion of the theory as anything more than a hypothesis, due to the weight of Scriptural and Patristic evidence to the contrary.  Nonetheless, he allowed for the possibility that it might eventually be accepted if more convincing demonstrations were produced, stopping short of an outright condemnation of literal heliocentrism.  Believing, somewhat improbably, that Copernicus had seen his theory merely as a mathematical tool, Bellarmine saw no harm in continuing to treat the theory as one that “saves the appearances” better than the Ptolemaic system, without making statements about physical reality.  Further, he found that, following the directive of the Council of Trent to retain the biblical interpretations of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, one could scarcely avoid the conclusion that the passages describing the sun’s motion about the earth should be taken literally.  He rejected Foscarini’s argument that physical matters described in the Bible are not matters of faith:

 …for if it is not a matter of faith from the point of view of the subject matter, it is on the part of the ones who have spoken.  It would be just as heretical to deny that Abraham had two sons and Jacob twelve, as it would be to deny the virgin birth of Christ, for both are declared by the Holy Ghost through the mouths of the prophets and apostles.[32]


Any pronouncement of Sacred Scripture, by virtue of its divine authorship, was a matter of faith and within the Church’s jurisdiction.  Bellarmine did allow for the possibility of change:

If there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth, but the earth circled around the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary... [33]


Bellarmine did not regard the geocentric interpretation of Scripture as infallible, but considered the weight of evidence in this direction great enough to demand a high standard of proof from the heliocentric camp.  Still, Bellarmine allowed Copernicanism to be discussed as a hypothesis, did not declare it utterly contrary to faith, and even conceded the possibility that in the future it might be demonstrated as a fact.

            While Bellarmine’s position seems extremely conservative by modern standards, some of Galileo’s allies received it with optimism and elation.  Msgr. Piero Dini, on 25 April, expressed his “great joy” that the matter had been settled.  Galileo could write freely, as long as he remained “outside the sacristy.”[34]  Although his Jesuit supporters were relieved that Copernican investigations would not be impeded, Galileo was insulted: “I should not like to have great men think I endorse the position of Copernicus only as an astronomical hypothesis which is not really true.”[35]  He believed the best way to show that Copernicanism is not contrary to Scripture was to prove that Copernicanism is really true, and thus Scripture, being infallible, must agree with it when properly understood.  The profound religious devotion Galileo demonstrated throughout his life argues for the sincerity of this position.  In principle, his stance was not much different from Bellarmine’s,[36] except that they disagreed on what constituted a clear proof of Copernicanism.  Galileo believed he already possessed such a proof, and was prepared to present it personally in Rome in December 1615.

            Galileo’s overconfidence backfired, as he failed to appreciate not only the strength of Aristotelian bias among the consulting theologians, but also a fundamental disconnect in understanding what constituted a scientific proof.  The Holy Office, having reviewed Le macchie solari on 25 November 1615, issued a double condemnation far more injurious to the Copernican cause than what had been discussed privately by Bellarmine.  This edict would constrain scientific inquiry in Catholic Europe for more than a century.

Propositio prima: Sol est centrum mundi et omnino immobilis motu locali.  Censura:  Omnes dixerunt dictam propositionem esse stultam et absurdam in philosophia et formaliter hereticam, quatenus contradicit expresse sententiis Sacrae Scripturae in multis locis, secundum proprietatem verborum et secundum cmmunem expositionem et sensum SS. Patrum et theologorum doctorum;


Propositio secunda: Terra non est centrum mundi nec immobilis, sed secundum se totam movetur etiam motu diurno.  Censura: Omnes dixerunt hanc propositionem recipere eandem censuram in philosophia et spectando veritatem theologicam ad minus esse in fide erroneam.[37]


Curiously, the decree distinguishes between the doctrine of the sun’s immobility and that of the earth’s mobility.  The first proposition is denounced in much harsher terms; it is “stupid and absurd” philosophically and formally heretical, since Biblical statements about the sun’s motion are explicit.[38]  The mobility of the earth receives only philosophical censure, without verbal abuse, and theologically is regarded to be at least erroneous in faith.  Both propositions are critiqued theologically and in philosophia; there is no place for Galileo’s physico-mathematical proofs in this intellectual framework.

            In 1616, the Congregation of the Index applied the theologians’ ruling by banning Foscarini’s letter to Bellarmine and expurgating De revolutionibus and Zúñiga’s In Iob commentaria.  The Congregation was primarily concerned with statements declaring there to be no disharmony between heliocentrism and Scripture, and secondarily with asserting Copernicanism as a philosophical truth.  This ordering of priorities is evidenced by the relative severity of censorship of various works.  Foscarini’s letter was completely prohibited, since its very purpose was to argue that Scripture is in harmony with Copernicus. Zúñiga’s theological defense of Copernicus was censored, yet the strongly Copernican Le macchie solari was not singled out by name, even though the theologians had personally reviewed it.  Zúñiga and Copernicus would simply be “corrected,” but Foscarini’s book was to be “prohibited and condemned, and that all other books likewise, in which the same is taught, be prohibited.”  Although the intent of the Congregation of the Index was directed primarily at Scriptural arguments for heliocentrism (since, by definition, Scripture and Church tradition constituted the subject-matter of heresy), in practice the prohibition would eventually have a broader application, and effectively stifle most serious advocacy of Copernicanism.

            The censorship of the text of De revolutionibus was astonishingly ineffective.  In 1620, the Congregation of the Index took the unusual measure of prescribing specific corrections to a suspended work.  The proposed amendments to De revolutionibus were modest, doing little to abolish the substance of Copernicus’ argument, yet even these slight changes were rarely applied.  All but one of the changes were in the preface or Book I, leaving the scientific portion of Copernicus’ work unaltered.  The offending statements were those that asserted the motion of the earth as a physical fact rather than as a hypothesis. In the preface, the Congregation called for the omission of Copernicus’ brief dismissal of “vain talkers who, although ignorant of all mathematics, yet taking it upon themselves to sit in judgment upon the subject on account of a certain passage of Scripture badly distorted for their purposes…”.  This deletion affirmed the competence of theologians to pronounce on scientific matters.  The corrections to Book I mostly revised brief assertions of the earth’s motion to hypothetical assumptions.  For example, “We are not ashamed to acknowledge… that this is preferably verified in the motion of the earth,” became, “We are not ashamed to assume… that this is consequently verified in the motion.”  The largest change was in Chapter 8, which the Congregation said may be omitted completely, but “since it seems to speak problematically, in order that it may satisfy the learned and keep intact the sequence and unity of the book,” three brief emendations were proposed instead.  In this chapter, Copernicus exposed the weaknesses of ancient arguments against the earth’s motion, and proposed some new arguments of his own.  Two of his stronger arguments were to be replaced with geocentric assertions, and his conclusion that the motion of the earth is more probable was to be omitted.  Stunningly, this would still allow Copernicus’ critique of Ptolemy to remain, as well as other arguments such as:

 …immobility is deemed nobler and more divine than change and instability, which are therefore better suited to the earth than to the universe. Besides, it would seem quite absurd to attribute motion to the framework of space or that which encloses the whole of space, and not, more appropriately, to that which is enclosed and occupies some space, namely, the earth.


The censors were to delete Copernicus’ conclusion, yet retain many of the arguments that supported it.  Another fig leaf was placed over Chapter 11, with the title changed from “Demonstration of the threefold motion of the earth,” to “On the hypothesis of the threefold motion of the earth and its demonstration.”  The body of this chapter was not changed.  In the remainder of the work, the only amendment was the deletion of a reference to the earth as a “star.”[39]  This intellectual game of rephrasing heliocentric assertions as mere suppositions would become a common ploy among Catholic heliocentrists in the years that followed.

            The innocuous censorship of De revolutionibus proposed by the Congregation of the Index was rarely applied in practice.  Only 33 of 400 extant copies were censored, including about 60% of those in Italy, and none in Spain or Portugal.  Even an editor of the Spanish Index, Juan de Pineda, possessed an unaltered copy of De revolutionibus, and he proposed no changes in the Seville Index.[40]  The failure of print censorship does not preclude the existence of other forms of suppression of heliocentrism, but it certainly allows us to see the limits of ecclesiastical power, even over orthodox clergy.  The misfortunes of Copernicanism cannot be blamed solely on a clerical decree; more powerful cultural forces were needed to keep the earth at the center of the universe.





The Changing Relationships of the Sciences


            Like much else in European society, the sciences respected a hierarchical order of dignity and status.  The sixteenth century inherited a worldview in which theology was queen of the sciences, followed by metaphysics and the lesser natural sciences, descending from the more abstract to the more practical.  Among the natural sciences, the greatest was physics (physica, called “natural philosophy” only much later), and its domain was defined by Aristotle’s work of that name.  Aristotle’s Physics is a qualitative discussion of the essences of substances, or their principles of motion.  We would regard it as philosophy of science, rather than physics, but among the scholastics it was held to be a literal description of physical reality, while the more practical, quantitative sciences were merely computational tools that imparted no knowledge of natural principles.

            Mathematics (mathematica, mathesis, mathematicae scientiae) retained its medieval significance, encompassing not only pure mathematics, but also “mixed” sciences, such as optics, statics, acoustics, and astronomy.  Mixed sciences were those whose demonstrations involved at least one mathematical proposition and one proposition from physics.  In the early seventeenth century, a mathematician still had to borrow physical premises from those established by the Aristotelian physicists.  Mathematical sciences were constrained by physics, not the other way around.  If an astronomical demonstration was to use physical premises, these had to be dutifully accepted from conventional physics, or else it was regarded as a mere mathematical device.

            This conceptualization of the division of the sciences enabled many astronomers to receive Copernicanism as a computational tool, accustomed as they were to multiplying epicycles and eccentrics without regard for physical implications.  Rodrigo Zamorano’s Compendio de la arte de navegar (1581) used solar tables based on both Copernican and geocentric results.[41] Church documents referred to Copernicus and Galileo as “mathematicians,” and Bellarmine’s belief that Copernicus intended his theory as a hypothesis was based on conventional notions of the nature of astronomical demonstrations, as well as Osiander’s disingenuous preface to De revolutionibus.

            A more exalted estimation of astronomical truth began to emerge at the end of the sixteenth century, particularly among the Jesuits.  Clavius’ creation of a mathematics curriculum at the Collegio Romano in the 1590s came at a time when the dependence of physics upon mathematics was increasingly recognized, by Clavius himself,[42] as well as Biancani and Grienberger.  While Clavius regarded Copernicanism as a purely mathematical theory, he acknowledged that some astronomical demonstrations could have physical implications.  Bellarmine also recognized this, as he accepted astronomical proofs against the notion of solid heavenly spheres, declaring in 1570-72 that celestial bodies moved freely “like birds in the air and fishes in the sea.”[43]  Thus emerged the possibility of reordering the sciences, as well as recognition that astronomers might have something to say about physics.

            Aristotelian physicists in Italian universities adamantly opposed elevating the status of the mathematical sciences, and emphatically rejected Galileo’s nuova scienza, which they recognized as a direct assault on physics as they knew it.  Superficially, the creation of a new “mixed” science might seem an innocuous venture; Galileo would simply create a mathematical dynamics analogous to Archimedean statics,[44] filling a gap in human knowledge rather than supplanting existing sciences.  In reality, Galileo’s dynamics threatened to replace contemporary physics, since, unlike other mixed sciences, it did not borrow physical propositions from Aristotelian physics, but rejected its most basic principles and advanced new concepts in their place.  Further, since Aristotelian physics treated, by definition, principles of change or motion, any other science of dynamics would necessarily infringe upon its domain.

            Galileo also attempted to redefine the nature of scientific proof, moving away from a priori deductions, and favoring demonstrations ex suppositione.  Galileo had studied methodological questions from lecture notes of Paulus Vallius’ logic course (1587-88) at the Collegio Romano (given to him by Clavius).[45]  In Vallius’ method, a hypothesis (suppositio) was a valuable tool for determining causes through their effects.  One observes an effect, hypothesizes its cause and eliminates other possibilities until only one can account for what is observed.  Then one must show that the hypothesized cause would in fact produce the observed effect.  Thus, for Galileo’s purposes, it would suffice to show that the Ptolemaic system cannot account for what is observed and the Copernican system can. Though he explained the value of ex suppositione proofs to Cardinal Bellarmine and was able to convince some Jesuits of the validity of his demonstrations, he made little progress in changing the assumptions of Aristotelian schoolmen, who saw little probative value in a theory’s agreement with observation (in ironic contrast with Aristotle himself, as Galileo did not fail to remark[46]).

            The new celestial mechanics created heated controversy by threatening the status of philosophy, but Galileo and Foscarini brought matters into the Inquisition’s jurisdiction only when they advanced opinions on how theologians ought to revise their interpretations of Scripture.  While Bellarmine agreed, in principle, that theologians may be forced to revise their opinions in the face of clear physical proofs, he was unwilling to invert the hierarchy of the sciences.  Theology, not astronomy, must receive every benefit of the doubt.  Bellarmine rejected Foscarini’s suggestion that theologians may only deal with matters of faith and morals.  Such a view would be incompatible with divine authorship of the Bible, which makes many declarative statements on matters of history and nature.  Although orthodox theologians accepted the “principle of accommodation,” the idea that God spoke according to weak human understanding, they made use of it sparingly and cautiously.  Post-Tridentine guidelines on Biblical interpretation imposed severe constraints on theologians that would cascade down to other sciences whose objects were only cursorily described in Scripture.


The Galileo Trial (1632-33)


            Although the theological status of Copernicanism was defined in 1616, a much more damaging blow to free scientific inquiry would be dealt during the Galileo trial of 1632-33.  Far from chastened by his earlier defeat, Galileo became increasingly belligerent, picking a fight with Orazio Grassi over the comets of 1618,[47] and finally fashioning his greatest polemic, the Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi dal mondo (1632).  This work was much more than an argument for Copernicanism, but a broad attack on the basic principles of Aristotelian mechanics and cosmology set out in De caelo, De generatione et corruptione, De motu, and elsewhere.  Galileo’s violation of the agreement to speak of Copernicanism only ex suppositione is so blatant, that it makes little sense to villainize the consulting theologians Cardinal Agostino Oreggi, Zaccaria Pasqualigo and Melchior Inhofer (a student of Scheiner, and the only Jesuit involved in the process).  Though the fact of the violation is clear, the sentence was extraordinarily severe.  In vain, Galileo appealed to the now deceased Bellarmine’s opinion that Scripture could be interpreted metaphorically if a definitive proof of heliocentrism arose.[48]  The fact that Galileo had developed a new inertial mechanics to validate heliocentrism meant little to the Congregation of Cardinals who condemned him to a sternly enforced house arrest.  Pope Urban VIII, formerly a friend of Galileo, was apparently so offended at reading his opinions in the mouth of Simplicio, that he denied appeals to mitigate the sentence.  The pathetic image of the blind, elderly sage confined to his villa and denied Christian burial reshaped the intellectual climate of Catholic Europe, and its psychological impact induced numerous Catholic scientists to scrupulously censor themselves, as evidenced by their repeated references to the 1633 trial.


Copernicanism in Italy after Galileo


            The spectacle of Galileo’s personal ruin concretized fears of persecution throughout Catholic Europe, prompting acts of self-censorship by scientists as renowned as Descartes, who nonetheless had most of his works put on the Index in 1663.  In the seventeenth century, the number of scientific works on the Index multiplied, and authors wishing to remain orthodox explicitly acknowledged their submission to the Holy Office’s condemnation.  Anyone who wished to assert heliocentrism as more than a hypothesis would have to do so covertly.  Galileo’s students preserved their master’s oral teachings, and developed his mechanics in various directions, yet their work was little publicized and rarely circulated outside of Italy.  Their school would become significant in the eighteenth century, but the seventeenth belonged primarily to geocentrists and moderate reformers.

The study of astronomy by Italian Jesuits deteriorated after the Galileo controversies.  The mathematical curriculum at the Collegio Romano was no longer listed in the Catalogi of 1615, and this discipline fell into further neglect after the death of Grienberger in 1636.[49]  In the 1650s and 1660s, Jesuits lamented the lack of time and resources needed to pursue prolonged experimentation.  The Collegio would not finance the construction of instruments and machines, making sophisticated experimentation and observation practically impossible to all but those fortunate enough to find a wealthy patron.[50]

            One such Jesuit was Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671), who enjoyed the support of the Grimaldi family in Bologna and an excellent reputation for astronomical observation and analysis.  The Grimaldi patronage enabled him to complete a detailed lunar map, which he included in his highly influential Almagestum Novum (1651), an attempt to reconcile traditional astronomy with new discoveries.  In this work, Riccioli presented an exhaustive discussion of all the known arguments for and against heliocentrism, concluding in favor of the traditional view.  Unlike Galileo’s Dialogo, Riccioli’s discussion did not allow the heliocentrists to present the better arguments, but he refuted them systematically, appealing to familiar mechanical arguments against the diurnal rotation of the earth, as well as a “physico-mathematical” proof of his own devising.  Like Clavius and Grienberger before him, Riccioli held mathematical proof in high esteem, and went so far as to affirm that mathematical evidence was metaphysically certain, while physical evidence must conform to mathematical axioms.[51]

            Riccioli attempted to define the parameters for discussing heliocentrism by articulating his understanding of the significance of the Church’s prohibition.

The sacred Congregation of Cardinals, taken apart from the Supreme Pontiff, does not make propositions to be of faith, even though it actually happened to define them to be of faith, or the contrary ones heretical. Wherefore, since no definition upon this matter has as yet been issued by the Supreme Pontiff, nor by any council directed and approved by him, it is not yet of faith that the sun moves and the earth stands still, by force of the decree of the Congregation; but at most, and alone, by force of the Sacred Scripture, to those to whom it is morally evident that God has revealed it. Nevertheless, Catholics are bound, in prudence and obedience, at least not so far as not to teach the contrary.[52]


Riccioli’s interpretation is a typical post-Tridentine view on the authority of non-pontifical decrees, which, though not infallible definitions of faith, were to be obeyed in deed, in this case by not teaching heliocentrism.  Some, like Alfredo Dinis, have seen a sign of laxity or even hidden Copernican sympathies in the qualification “to those to whom it is morally evident,” but Riccioli is here following a standard common to late medieval and Tridentine confessional literature.[53] While all Catholics were bound in obedience to the decree of the Congregation, geocentrism was not to be held de fide unless it was “morally evident” to an individual that the Bible affirms it.  Personal conscience could impose additional restraint beyond what the Church required, but could not conversely excuse disobedience.  Riccioli’s opinion was consistent with Tridentine standards of orthodoxy that, despite their legendary rigidity, allowed considerable room for maneuvering.

            Several Jesuits appear to have harbored Copernican views secretly, while testing the limits of permissible scientific discourse described by Riccioli.  André Tacquet, in his Opera mathematica, sustained the immobility of the earth “solely for theological reasons and for fear to wander off the faith, because the other proofs thus far given lack demonstrative value.”[54]  Unimpressed with Riccioli’s proofs of geocentrism, he encouraged the development of heliocentric proofs but censored himself for theological reasons.  Giuseppe Ferroni anonymously published the Dialogo fisico astronomico contro il sistema copernicano (1680), which actually defended Copernicus against the objections of Riccioli.[55]  Those who dared to publish under their own name went no further than adopting the system of Tycho Brahe, a geocentric model with Mercury and Venus orbiting the sun, which was theologically permissible and enabled astronomers to challenge other assumptions about the heavens.  Francesco Eschinardi (1623-1703) espoused Tycho’s system, and carefully specified that the heliocentric hypothesis “non esse reale, sed solum utiliter fingi ad explicandum motum physice.”  The error of the Copernicans, he said, was in deriving physical conclusions from an imaginary mathematical hypothesis.[56]  It is difficult to determine to what extent, if any, men like Eschinardi secretly harbored Copernican leanings, on the basis of published texts alone.  By the late seventeenth century, covertly heliocentric scientists were sufficiently numerous that G.W. Leibniz and others campaigned to get the ban lifted, hoping to end this crisis of conscience. 

The Copernican cause was aided by other developments in physics and astronomy.  The solidity and incorruptibility of the heavens were questioned as early as 1570 by Bellarmine and Clavius, and by 1632, Roderigo de Arriaga indicated in his Cursus philosophicus that these ancient assumptions were widely challenged, though only a few years earlier they “were absolutely beyond controversy.”  Writing no later than 1661, George de Rhodes affirmed that, “no one now denies the fluidity of the heaven of the planets.”[57]  Interest in Galileo’s permissible works remained strong, as evidenced by the publication of Le macchie solari and the Sidereus nuncius in Bologna, 1656, with the approval of the Inquisition, despite the strongly Copernican views these contained.  Galilean mechanical principles spread throughout Europe, influencing Gassendi and Torricelli, and probably Descartes, who at any rate advanced his own system of inertial mechanics.[58]   Most importantly, Isaac Newton developed the Galilean principles of inertia and constant free-fall acceleration into a theory of gravitation that would elegantly yield a heliocentric cosmos with Keplerian ellipses.

            Advocates of new cosmologies labored in an environment of extreme distrust and animosity against Galilean science in particular, and modern physico-mathematical science in general. Antonio Baldigiani (1647-1771), a mathematics professor at the Collegio Romano, painted a grim picture in 1693:

All of Rome is in arms against the mathematicians and physico-mathematicians. Extraordinary congregations of cardinals of the Holy Office have been made and are being made, and before the Pope, and they speak of making general prohibitions of all the authors of modern physics, and very long lists have been made and within these Galileo, Gassendi, and Descartes are placed at the heads as extremely pernicious to the republic of letters and to sincerity of religion.[59]


In a way, critics of the new science were correct in identifying the “pernicious” effect of modern physics.  While prohibited propositions like the mobility of the earth could not be safely advocated, the mechanical systems of Galileo, Descartes, Gassendi, and Newton could be studied by the orthodox and insidiously undermine the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian cosmos.  Some hoped to close this loophole by expanding the Index, but this approach could not succeed unless modern physics were banned altogether, as Baldigiani feared.  Paolo Casati (1617-1707), a Jesuit of unimpeachable orthodoxy, wrote admiringly of Galileo’s mechanics in an imaginative dialogue among Galileo, Marin Mersenne, and Paul Guldin.[60] The study of inertial mechanics was indeed a path by which Galileo could be restored in Catholic Europe.

            Galileo’s mechanical ideas, summarized in his Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche intorno a due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica & i movimenti locali (1638), were transmitted orally to his pupils and had far-reaching influence.  Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647), a pupil of Benedetto Castelli, developed the kinematic concept of momentum that would partially replace Aristotelian impetus.  The French giants René Descartes and Pierre Gassendi founded kinematic theories on unmistakably Galilean principles.  Descartes never credited Galileo for the principle of inertia (that a body in motion tends to retain its velocity), even though Isaac Newton, who did not read Italian, was aware of this contribution, and credited his predecessor with understanding his first two laws of motion and discovering constant gravitational acceleration.   Descartes’ apparently feigned ignorance of Galileo might be attributable to his legendary vanity, or to his fear of being associated with that name, as he scrupulously avoided supporting the Copernican system.  Torricelli gave Galileo explicit credit for the principle of free fall motion.  Pierre Gassendi simply assumed Galileo’s laws of rectilinear inertia and constant acceleration, without seeing a need to demonstrate them.  Whether from direct influence or independent discovery, the basic principles of Galilean mechanics soon gained acceptance among modern physicists throughout Europe.[61]

            Although early modern scientists (and their modern commentators) often constructed a dichotomy of qualitative Aristotelian science and quantitative modern physics, in reality there was considerable overlap between these systems.  Galileo’s mechanical works are suffused with medieval concepts and qualitative language, describing kinematic properties like acceleration as “qualities,” in the absence of the differential calculus that would give them quantitative form.  Conversely, traditional physical science was not restricted to the works of Aristotle and his commentators, but there also existed a medieval tradition of practical engineering, as well as Archimedean statics, which were alternative resources for practitioners of mixed science.  “Physico-mathematics” was not a heterodox concept, but was merely another term for mathesis mixta.  The developments of the late seventeenth century may be understood partly in terms of a traditional discipline encountering non-traditional results, rather than a new science overtaking the old.  The persistence of qualitative analysis even in this age of fertile physico-mathematical discovery should make us hesitate to assume that the two kinds of science are mutually exclusive.  This lack of exclusivity made it easier for physicists to express new discoveries in familiar language, yet it was also more difficult for them to separate physics from metaphysics, as was eminently the case among Cartesians.





“Enlightened Catholics” and Galileo’s Restoration


            Vincenzo Viviani, a disciple of Galileo, was a key figure in the revival of Italian public interest in his master’s life and work.  With the help of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, he successfully campaigned for the publication of his master’s works at Bologna in 1656. This collection censored his Copernican works, and omitted the Dialogo and the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina altogether.  After several unsuccessful appeals to lift the ban on the Dialogo, Viviani died in 1703, leaving behind copies of his master’s papers and his own Racconto istorico della vita di Galileo (1654?), composed of letters to Leopoldo de’ Medici.  Viviani’s biography, published in 1717, marked a turning point toward Galileo’s rehabilitation, and it remained the most cited reference on Galileo’s life through the nineteenth century.[62]   Viviani claimed that his work strived for “historical purity,” and was “extracted for the most part from the living voice of Signor Galileo.”  The biography made no attempt to hide Galileo’s provocative denunciations of Aristotelian errors, which won him many enemies at the University of Pisa, yet Viviani contrasted Galileo’s philosophical radicalism with his religious orthodoxy.  There is no “Eppur si muove,” but instead Galileo is shown as genuinely contrite after his 1633 condemnation, and accepting that he was in error: “e in breve (essendogli dimostrato il suo errore) retrattò, come vero cattolico, questa sua opinione.” Viviani insisted that Galileo’s remorse was sincere, and that years later, he was mortified when his Copernican works were published abroad, having abandoned those views “cattolicamente.”[63]  This was a far cry from the defiant, anticlerical martyrology that would follow later, yet it was easier to rehabilitate Galileo by defending his religious orthodoxy.

Viviani’s biography ushered in a wave of authorized publications of Galileo’s works, beginning with the Opere di Galileo Galilei (1718). This collection still lacked the Dialogo and the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, though these were already available through the clandestine press, such as the Dialogo printed in Naples (1710).  Soon even these forbidden texts found their way into legal publications, as the historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori included long excerpts from them in De ingeniorum moderatione in religionis negotio (Paris, 1714).[64]

            At a time when most Italian modernists were Cartesians, Celestino Galiani played a valuable role in bringing Newtonian ideas into Italy.  He was among the first Italian scientists to study Newton’s Principia mathematica and Opticks (in Samuel Clarke’s Latin translation, 1706-7).[65]  In December 1713, Galiani circulated a copy of the Scholium generale he had received from England, exposing Italians to Newton’s synthesis of theism and modern celestial mechanics[66].  His activity was broader than the physical sciences, as he sought to bring practical analysis to questions of Biblical exegesis and economics, and to abandon the use of Latin in the sciences.  He closely associated with other leading Italian humanists, such as L.A. Muratori, and made use of the illegal press at Naples.  The efforts of Galiani and others to popularize Newtonianism soon resulted in the incorporation of Newtonian teachings into university programs during the 1720’s and 1730’s.

            The election of Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) in 1740 coincided with the ascent of Newtonianism in Italy and brought hope to those who sought a lifting of the ban on heliocentrism.  A friend of scholarship, he was nonetheless doctrinally rigid, as he upheld traditional teaching on usury in Vix Pervenit (1745) and condemned the Jesuit practice of applying Christian terminology to the pagan customs of China and India.  He addressed the Copernican issue with perplexing half-measures.  In 1741, he ordered the Holy Office to give its imprimatur to the first edition of the complete works of Galileo, but this “complete” collection excluded the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina and the letter to Castelli, which attempted to interpret Scripture and redefine the role of theology. The Dialogo was included, but with a preface indicating its hypothetical character, so the decree of 1616 had not been abrogated.  Nevertheless, Benedict’s act helped remove the stigma of Galileo’s 1633 condemnation, and completed the personal rehabilitation that was symbolized by his reburial at Santa Croce in 1737.  In 1758, Pope Benedict removed from the Index the general prohibition against works that teach the mobility of the earth, yet the named Copernican works remained on the Index.  Although heliocentrism per se was no longer forbidden, in practice it could not be asserted as truth without running into theological problems.  This contradictory, gradualist approach to reconciliation employed by Benedict XIV created an ambivalent situation where Copernicanism was permitted to greater extent, yet still viewed with skepticism.

            Some of the cautiously progressive agendas that followed the Benedictine reform can be found in the Storia letteraria d’Italia, a journal of the 1750s that defended Jesuit science and advocated modern empirical methodology.  Founded by the Venetian Francesco Antonio Zaccaria (1714-1795), a staunch religious traditionalist, the journal constructed a history of modern Italian science that emphasized a continuous Galilean tradition. Material had to be chosen selectively, and influential non-Galileans like Riccioli were neglected. The editors credited Galileo for creating a nuova scienza and abandoning the old natural philosophy, ignoring his extensive use of ancient and medieval concepts and techniques.  More significantly, the journal treated geocentrism as obsolete and unworthy of discussion, while accepting the Newtonian theory of gravitation.[67]  This reveals the extent to which heliocentrism could be explicitly endorsed scientifically after Benedict XIV, even if the theological issues had yet to be resolved.  The reinterpretation of Scripture remained a difficult problem, as Zaccaria was unwilling to admit the possibility of apostolic ignorance.  The journal tactfully avoided theological and philosophical controversies, adopting a conciliatory and non-polemical tone, imploring Cartesians and Newtonians to ignore ideological differences in favor of practical empiricism.[68]  Publication of the Storia stopped in 1758, by order of General Lorenzo Ricci, “for the better interest of the Order.”[69] The Society became defensive as it was expelled first from Portugal (1758), then France and Spain, followed by papal suppression of the Order in 1773.  With the disappearance of the Jesuits, modern science lost an important voice of moderation and reconciliation with tradition and authority.

            The increasingly anticlerical mood of the mid-century Enlightenment had a profound impact on the perception of Galileo, who attained heroic proportions as a father of modern science and a martyr for intellectual freedom.  A new version of the Galileo narrative was first published by an Italian living in London in 1757, and it spread throughout Europe in Querelles Litteraires (1761).  In this story, which introduced the “Eppur si muove” legend, Galileo was in antagonism with the Church itself, while Cristoph Scheiner and other “ennemi de la raison” became villains motivated by malice and jealousy. G.C. Nelli, in the Storia Letteraria Fiorentina (1759), painted the Aristotelians as malicious ignoramuses who “persecuted the most respectable and divine man.”  Even relatively sympathetic Jesuits like Giovanni Battista Baliani became lumped in the category of “enemies.”  Coupled with the development of Galileo the innocent victim and impenitent martyr, there arose a heightened appreciation of Galileo’s importance to the growth of modern science.  Paolo Frisi’s article in the 1777 Encyclopédie compensated for the omission of Galileo in earlier editions, now extolling him as a founder of modern science, and the greatest Italian scientist.  He elaborated this homage in his Elogio del Galileo (Livorno, 1775).  Algarotti made him a precursor and peer of Newton, and Nelli placed him in the lineage of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and Michelangelo.[70]

The late-eighteenth century Enlightenment, by virtue of its success and its increasingly anticlerical and politically radical agenda, provoked a reaction against philosophical novelty that was especially pronounced in Italy.  Newtonianism had already been accommodated to Catholic Christianity by this point, removing any scientific obstacles to the acceptance of Copernicanism.  Unfortunately, the negative religious and political reputations of the philosophes impeded the smooth completion of this development, and for decades into the nineteenth century, there was no shortage of Catholic clerics and academics who resisted Copernicanism as heresy.


Copernicanism in Spain after Galileo


            The War of the Spanish Succession ended Spanish dominance in Italy around 1710, precisely when the Neapolitan Enlightenment began its public campaign.  If Italy is the appropriate object of study for understanding how Copernicanism came to be accepted in the Catholic world, Spain is the logical choice for explaining how it was resisted for so long, even after the Vatican had come to terms with it.  We should not exaggerate this point, nor be too quick to generalize about national character, for as we have seen, Spain, which had been a dominant center of learning in the Middle Ages, was also more tolerant of Copernicus than most of Europe in the sixteenth century.  In the seventeenth century, the Spanish mathematical sciences experienced an uneven decline, a fact whose explanation has been the subject of a prolonged polemic.  Without pretending to adequately treat such a broad subject, we may nonetheless attempt to discern something of the mechanics of this decline vis-à-vis the Spanish response to Copernicanism.

            José María López Piñero has identified several aspects of sixteenth century Spanish science and society that would be contributing factors to the crisis of the seventeenth century. First, state patronage of the mathematical sciences showed little interest in basic research or theoretical development, but focused primarily on practical applications. In Castile, the Cortes were the only royal institution that dealt with scientific matters, but nearly all the petitions they received pertained to technical questions, such as medical regulations or normalizing weights and measures.  In 1588, the Cortes meeting in Madrid agreed to organize mathematics courses in all Spanish cities, for the purpose of “el aprovechamiento de los oficios públicos que resultarán de la misma ciencia, como son los alarifes – es decir, los maestros de obras o arquitectos – y otros.”[71]  In Aragón, power was more decentralized in the hands of Diputaciones, but the scientific themes were similarly oriented to practical and economic concerns.  Astronomical sciences, in this framework, might be useful for navigation and cartography, but more abstract cosmological matters were of little interest to the state. 

The astronomical sciences suffered from the additional handicap of their historic association with theological heterodoxy, as astronomy was still not clearly distinguished from the occult arts.  In the sixteenth century, “astrología” referred to all studies of the heavens, including what would become the yet-unnamed science of astronomy, as well as “astrología judiciaria,” which explained the effects of the celestial bodies on human behavior.  This form of astrology could range from “natural magic” (which exploited “correspondences” between the stars and earthly materials) to the invocation of good and evil spirits.  In the medieval period, all but demonic magic had been tolerated, but in the sixteenth century all forms of judicial astrology came to be denounced as “arte falaz y supersticiosa.”  Some of those accused of black magic protested to the Inquisition that they invoked good spirits (Eugenio de Torralba 1528-31), or claimed that the effects of the stars on human lives were natural processes, not supernatural ones (Amador de Velasco, found with magic recipes in 1576).[72]  These defenses were ineffective, as they relied on distinctions no longer considered important.

            As the Inquisition became increasingly severe toward perceived superstitions, it also obtained powers of censorship of the press.  Censorship was established in Spain in 1502, with most powers vested in the state, which regulated publication by granting licenses or privileges, and could censor content prior to publication.  The Inquisition did not have legal charge of licenses or “censura previa,” but it could forbid or edit already printed books (censored and licensed), that it considered heretical.  To this end, it published indices of forbidden or expurgated books as existed elsewhere in Europe, though we have already seen the ineffectiveness of post-publication censorship in the case of De revolutionibus.  The first Indices that appeared in Spain were reprints of the University of Louvain’s Catalogus in Toledo and Valladolid (1551).  Next came those of the Inquisitors-General Fernando de Valdés (1559) and Gaspar de Quiroga (1583 & 1584).[73]   Ecclesiastical censorship in the late sixteenth century was especially harsh, and a work did not have to be strictly heretical to be included.  For example, the works of Mercator were placed on the Index in 1584 in part because the author fraternized with Protestants and spoke in their manner.

Advierto al lector que este Gerardo Mercator tuvo una fe bastante sospechosa; en prime término, porque en sus obras figuran algunas cosas que son poco acordas con la doctrina católica y tienen estilo de los herejes….no encontramos pruebas de que frecuentara los sacramentos o confesara la fe católica.[74]


Counter-Reformation paranoia made association with heretics a sign of probable heresy, and a printed work could be judged not only by its content, but also by the character of its author.

Deep-rooted suspicion of novelty was but one of several factors that made Spain less than ideal ground for scientific innovation.  The economic travails of Spain, ranging from economic depression and depopulation in the early seventeenth century to the monetary collapse of 1680, also contributed to the malaise.  From 1600 to 1700, the population of Spain decreased from 8.5 million to 7 million, mainly from plagues in 1596-1602, 1647-1652, and 1676-1685, which accounted for 1.25 million deaths.[75]  Economic decline resulting from depopulation, the agricultural self-sufficiency of America, and the multiplication of noble titles, among other factors, accompanied the growth of a culture obsessed with personal status. These developments conspired to ruinous effect on the Spanish educational system, as degrees from colegios mayores became mere licenses for aristocratic youth to assume one of the many superfluous bureaucratic positions being created, and thousands of middle-class men joined the clergy for financial stability, swelling their ranks to 10% of adult males, yet diluting their commitment to educational ideals in philosophy and science.[76]    The Church continued to patronize Spanish art and literature, which rivaled the best of Europe, yet religious orders no longer attracted men interested in the sciences.  Lastly, the Cortes of Castile, the only state institution that had taken much interest in science, lost their power, and they were no longer summoned after 1662.

The seventeenth-century decline of Spanish science was particularly noticeable in the astronomical sciences.  The University of Seville, which had been a center for the study of navigation, astronomy, and mathematics, increasingly neglected these disciplines until by the mid-seventeenth century the chairs of astronomy and mathematics were considered “rare” sciences.[77]  A similar phenomenon appears to have prevailed in the Jesuit schools, which suffered from a lack of qualified teachers and interested students in the mathematical disciplines, despite their substantial efforts to promote mathematics and astrology in the late sixteenth century.   The story of the Jesuit reversal can be followed in some detail, and it may be regarded as representative of the overall Spanish decline to the extent that the Society of Jesus was the most eminent institution in Spanish mathematical education.

Jesuit influence in the mathematical sciences on the Iberian peninsula was at first most prominent in Portugal, where they created a mathematical culture where none had existed, apart from the singular genius of Pedro Nunes (1502-78).  The Jesuits began mathematics courses in Coimbra (1580s) and Lisbon (1590).  At Lisbon, the Aula da Esfera (“Class on the Sphere”) was mostly limited to practical disciplines such as cosmography, navigation, and geography until 1640, when Portugal seceded from Spain.  Cosmological discussion was constrained to commentary on Sacrobosco’s Sphere.  Giovan Paolo Lembo taught Galileo’s famous observations of 1610-11 at Lisbon in 1615-16, and replicated them there.  Cristoforo Borri described Galileo’s observations in the Collecta Astronomica (Lisbon, 1631).[78]

The gravitation of Italian Jesuits toward Portugal was not accidental, but a result of the Society’s missionary priorities.  Missionaries with mathematical training were to be sent to Asia, to the neglect of Europe and America.  Initially, all the European colonies in the Far East were Portuguese, so the only means of regular travel to Asia was from Lisbon.[79]  Ironically, the same missionary concern that guaranteed a Jesuit scientific presence in Portugal also undermined the possibility of it developing into anything lasting or substantial.  By 1692, General Tirso González had to issue an “Ordinance to promote and increase the study of mathematics in the Portuguese Province,” in response to an absence of regular classes and qualified teachers.[80] The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed both Portuguese observatories and most documents were lost.

Jesuit domination of Spanish mathematical science began when Philip II in 1623 offered directorship of “Estudios Generales” at the Imperial College of Madrid to the Jesuits.  General Vitelleschi accepted, and in 1625 a curriculum was developed to educate noble children in the arts and sciences.  These “Reales Estudios” replaced the Academy of Mathematics in Madrid, and drew protests from other religious orders and university officials, who felt that the Jesuits were usurping their authority.[81]

As there was no indigenous movement of novatores in Spain, Italian Jesuits brought novel scientific attitudes into the country.  One such reformer was Giambattista Giovanni, who quaintly castilianized his name to Juan Bautista Juanini (1636-1691).  Juanini only produced two books, Discurso político, y phísico (Madrid, 1679), and Nueva Idea Physica Natural (Zaragoza, 1685), but the latter was significant for its opposition to hylomorphism and its proposal of a new empirical concept of physics, based on mechanical demonstrations rather than semantic arguments.[82]

The Spanish theologian Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606-1682) also opposed hylomorphism in physics, and conceived of astronomy as a mathematical science with its own celestial mechanics.  He defended the satellites of Jupiter, even asserting that there were five! (In fact, only four Jovian moons are visible with low-powered telescopes.)  He also advanced mathematical study, publishing a table of logarithms, and developing “logaritmos perfectos,” a precursor to cologarithms.[83]

Vicente Mut (1614-1687) of Palma in Mallorca, was known as one of the greatest astronomical observers in seventeenth century Spain.  He joined the Jesuits, but quit after a few months to embark on a military career, becoming sergeant major of Palma.  An accountant and engineer with mathematical training, he kept extensive correspondences with foreign scientists, including Riccioli.  According to Navarro, Mut was much more interested in the practical application of the new astronomy then in its cosmological implications.  Nevertheless, he put forward a non-Aristotelian cosmology, and advocated Kepler’s ellipses, though he regarded these as mathematical conveniences, believing that natural motions were necessarily circular.[84]

Mut’s pupil, José de Zaragoza y Vilanova (1627-1679), was a great practical astronomer in his own right, and less engaged with foreigners than his master.  He observed comets in 1664 and 1677, and advocated a hypothesis-driven science based on observations, including his own.  In Esphera en común, celeste, y terráquea (1675), he outlined his thoughts on the geometry of space, astronomy, and geophysics.  He extensively cited ancient and modern authors, including Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Gassendi, and Clavius.  Zaragoza denied the incorruptibility of the heavens and the crystalline orbs, and he was probably a heliocentrist. He treated Copernicanism last among planetary systems, calling it “ingeniosa aunque condenada,” and perhaps revealed his true sympathies when describing his understanding of the Church’s condemnation, “que sólo se condena la actual realidad de esta composición pero no su posibilidad.”[85] 

This idea that discussion ex suppositione included treating the supposition as a possibility was not novel; Clavius saw no contradiction in disproving the physical reality of epicycles, and then merely regarding them as “less probable.”  In this period, “possibility” was equivalent to Aristotelian “potentiality,” a mode of being contrasted with “actuality” or “reality.”  There was nothing objectionable about considering a condemned proposition “possible,” since possibility excluded reality.  This metaphysical distinction allowed thinkers like Zaragoza to believe Copernicanism to be possible, though not real, without cognitive dissonance or duplicity.  Nonetheless, Zaragoza approached dangerous ground, for the 1633 condemnation of Galileo declared “there is no way an opinion declared and defined contrary to divine Scripture may be probable.”

Other astronomers of note include Juan Bautista Corachán (1661-1741) and Tomás Vicente Tosca (1651-1723), both of the University of Valencia.  Corachán became chairholder of mathematics in 1696, and advocated many modern views, ranging from the corpuscular nature of light to the fluidity of the heavens.  On cosmology, he was uncharacteristically restrained, defending Brahe’s system, though he is likely to have been a crypto-Copernican.  He cited Zaragoza in interpreting the condemnation of Copernicanism: “systema hoc non est prohibitum per modum hypothesi, que assumitur ficta ad supputandos coelestes motus.”[86]  Corachán stated more clearly that a hypothetical assumption is fictitious (ficta) than did Zaragoza.  He did not cite the 1616 condemnation directly, but as it was quoted in the 22 June 1633 sentence of Galileo, attesting to the psychological impact of the latter.  Though we have noted the ineffectiveness of print censorship, Corachán provides an example of prudent self-censorhsip to avoid sharing any part of the misfortune of Galileo.

Tomás Vicente Tosca, a friend of Corachán, was a fellow reformer who wished to realign the physical sciences.  His Compendio mathemático (1707-1715) incorporated many Newtonian ideas, and he proposed removing physics from philosophy, treating it as a quantitative science.  Tosca was content to leave questions of natures and essences to the philosophers, while mathematics proceeded independently: “Es proprio de la matemática prescindir de las opiniones filosóficas…”[87] His approach to heliocentrism was as guarded as Corachán’s, though he could not resist expressing his high opinion of the system.

Este sistema se puede considerar de dos maneras: la primera es como hipótesis o suposición, y la segunda como realidad; como hipótesis no hay duda ser una de las mejores que se han discurrido, como consta de lo que según ella queda explicado en el tratado sobredicho […].[88]


Once again, a dichotomy between reality and supposition is drawn, as though the two were exclusive, yet Tosca affirms that Copernicus’ fictitious system is superior at explaining reality.  There is nothing contradictory in this position that would impugn its sincerity, but given Tosca’s progressive views in other areas, he certainly denies the reality of heliocentrism only out of theological considerations, which is not to say these are insincere.

Other likely Copernicans include Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza, whose position on Copernicanism matched Zaragoza’s, and Tomás Cerdá of Cervera, who produced manuscripts on Newtonian celestial mechanics, and discussed the “three systems” (Ptolemaic, Tychonian, Copernican) at length, pronouncing the Copernican system “most useful.” Cerdá denied the physical reality of heliocentrism, and even censored Benjamin Martin’s affirmations of its truth, suggesting his position was sincerely held.[89]  Clearly, in the Crown of Aragón, there were Newtonian and Copernican scientists who had no philosophical objections to the new science, but only theology held them in check, either through fear of censure or as a matter of conscience.

            In Castile, the deterioration of Spanish mathematics was evidenced by the necessity of appointing foreigners to mathematics positions in the College of San Isidro.  In 1629, the French Jesuit Claude Richard (1589-1664) became the chairholder of mathematics, with the establishment of the Reales Estudios.  He used his work on the comet of 1652 as evidence for the fluidity of heaven, yet he retained the traditional belief that the celestial bodies were of elementary substances moved by angels.  Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (1595-1658), a professor of Natural History and Holy Scripture at the College, opposed Copernicus and espoused Brahe’s theory in Curiosa filosofía y tesoro de las maravillas de la naturaleza.  Jean-Charles de la Faille, appointed to the Imperial College in 1628, translated Baliani’s De motu naturali gravium solidorum into Spanish, and contributed to modern mechanics with his Theoremata de centro gravitatis partium circuli et ellipsis (Antwerp, 1632).[90]  The professors in Madrid did not exhibit the Copernican sympathies found in the Crown of Aragón, despite the greater diversity of their national backgrounds, frustrating any simple correlation between Spanish conservatism and national insularity.

            In sparsely populated Spanish America, the study of astronomy suffered from geographical isolation and the absence of Jesuit mathematicians (these being assigned primarily to Asia), yet the continent harbored a few exceptional men who established a precarious astronomical culture.  Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700), a native of Mexico City, was a proficient scholar whose renown reached the courts of Europe.  For unknown reasons, he left the Jesuit company at Puebla after seven and a half years in 1667,[91] continuing his mathematical studies until he became Professor of Astrology and Mathematics at the Royal University of Mexico in 1672.  A reputable mathematics community already existed at the University, but Sigüenza had broader interests, encompassing cartography and civil engineering.  Through his correspondence with European scholars, he gained a reputation abroad, and in 1680 Charles II made him “Royal Cosmographer of the Realm,” a role that included mapmaking and surveying.[92]

As an astronomer, Sigüenza was a nearly solitary intellect.  The only noteworthy astronomical debate of his career was with Eusebio Francisco Kino, a famous Jesuit missionary with astronomical training.  Sigüenza argued against Kino that comets were not harbingers of ill fortune, and included a systematic treatment of this argument in his Libra astronomica y philosophica (written 1681, published 1686), a decidedly non-Aristotelian treatise that displays knowledge of Galilean, Keplerian and Cartesian theories, as well as the work of Vicente Mut and José de Zaragoza. Sigüenza did not discuss Copernicus explicitly, but he mentioned “copernicanos” who were probably not a significant presence in Mexico; this is the earliest known reference to Copernicus in the New World.[93]  Sigüenza’s astronomy was not heliocentrist, and his discussion of the planetary system is sufficiently incoherent to make it doubtful that he had direct knowledge of Copernicus.  It is likely that the Copernican elements in Sigüenza’s work came from cited sources such as Galileo’s Le macchie solari and Kepler’s Epitome astronomiae copernicae (1618-21).

            In the eighteenth-century, Nueva Granada (now Colombia) became the focal point of the cultivation of astronomy in the New World.  José Celestino Mutis y Bosio (1732-1808), most famous as a botanist, arrived in Nueva Granada as a physician in 1760, and began to teach mathematics in 1762 at the Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Santa Fé in Bogotá. Mutis taught Copernicanism and Newtonianism openly, causing him to be denounced before the Inquisition in 1771.[94]   Here, Mutis was accused of heresy decades after Rome had reconciled itself with Copernicanism, but the charges were mysteriously dropped, perhaps due to the intervention of the viceroy.  Nonetheless, Mutis (ordained as a secular priest in 1772) incurred the continued antagonism of Dominican friars who sought to restore geocentric teachings whenever he was away on an expedition. Mutis began what would have been the first translation of Newton’s Principia into Spanish, but this was never completed.

Mutis funded the construction of Latin America’s first national observatory in Bogotá, which was completed in 1803.  From 1806, the observatory’s director and sole occupant was Mutis’successor, Francisco José de Caldas y Tenorio (1768-1816), a native Colombian who was a self-taught scientist.  Caldas had independently discovered the correlation between altitude and boiling point, useful to his interests, as his astronomical concerns were more practical and cartographic, though he meticulously recorded stellar positions, eclipses of the moon, and occultations of Jupiter’s moons, as well as the comet of 1807.  Caldas was limited by his cultural and geographic isolation, and dependent on flawed or outdated sources.  In 1812, he included four asteroids as planets, and referred to Uranus as “Herschel.”[95]  Shackled as he was by Spain’s imposed isolation on the colonies, Caldas wrote against Spanish oppression after the 1810 revolution, which he supported only after the fact.  As royalist forces reoccupied Nueva Granada, Caldas was captured and executed in 1816, and his notebooks and manuscripts were subsequently lost.


Copernicanism and the Spanish Enlightenment


            The prospects of Copernicanism in Spain and her colonies were hampered not only by theological skepticism, political turmoil, and economic depression, but also by real scientific difficulties that persisted into the eighteenth century.  Modern science and Enlightenment ideals were by no means necessarily to be identified with an adoption of heliocentric cosmology.  The erudite Benedictine Benito Jerónimo Feijoo (1676-1764) articulated some of the obstacles that even progressive thinkers could have with the theory of the earth’s mobility.  Using Riccioli to cite some of the stronger arguments for and against Copernicanism, Feijoo found no argument absolutely compelling, though he was impressed by Gassendi’s experiment showing the earth’s supposed rotation had no observable effect on falling bodies.  For Feijoo, the strongest argument of all was that of the Scriptures, and to the Copernican defense that these were written according to the understanding of the vulgar, he replied: “Pero esta solución sólo se podría admitir en caso que enteramente careciesen de ella los argumentos, que favorecen la opinión de Copérnico; lo que no es así.”  Feijoo recognized that the Ptolemaic system was untenable, and followed the Tychonian model:

Debe confesarse, que el Sistema vulgar, o Ptolemaico es absolutamente indefensable, y sólo domina en España por la grande ignorancia de nuestras Escuelas en las cosas Astronómicas; pero puede abandonarse éste juntamente con el Copernicano, abrazando el de Tyco Brahe, en el cual se explican bastantemente los Fenómenos Celestes.[96]


Feijoo appended another proof against Copernicanism developed by Christian Huygens, who calculated that the relative size and brightness of Sirius compared to the sun was much too large if it were to be situated at the fantastic distances necessary for no parallax from the earth’s annual motion to be observed.[97]

            Feijoo’s work exemplifies the extent to which Enlightenment thought was permitted in Spain.  His monumental Teatro crítico universal (1726-39) passed ecclesiastical censorship, and the censors prefaced the volumes with glowing praise of the author’s genius.  Feijoo sternly criticized Spanish education, cultural insularity, and popular superstition, yet also reprimanded immodest women’s fashion in an odd compendium of new and old ideas.  In his letters, he depicted Spanish scholastics as appallingly ignorant, reactively condemning modern theories they knew only by name, not content.  Feijoo admitted that scholastics of this type were few, but they had influence beyond their number through their positions of authority, and through their publications that characterized the theories of Descartes, Leibniz, Boyle, and Newton as dangerous to the faith, even though the Inquisition permitted all these authors to be published.[98] 

Despite this negative characterization of Aristotelians, Feijoo did not wish to dispense with Aristotle altogether:

Así yo, ciudadano libre de la República Literaria, ni esclavo de Aristóteles, ni aliado de sus enemigos, escucharé siempre con preferencia a toda autoridad privada, lo que me dictaren la experiencia, y la razón. Veo por el capítulo expresado, y aún por otros claudicantes todos los sistemas modernos. Conozco la insuficiencia del aristotélico, porque verdaderamente no es sistema físico, sino metafísico; y así todos los modernos salvan su verdad, explicándole cada uno a su modo. Dicen que no lidian con Aristóteles, sino con sus comentadores los Escolásticos, que de sus formas, y cualidades han querido hacer unas entidades absolutas, distintas adecuadamente de la materia, lo que Aristóteles no expresó, ni es necesario para verificar aquellas denominaciones. Por tanto el sistema Aristotélico, como le propuso su Autor, nadie puede condenarle como falso, sí sólo como imperfecto, y confuso: porque conteniéndose en unas ideas abstractas, no desciende a explicar físicamente la naturaleza de las cosas.[99]


By treating Aristotelian “physical” concepts as metaphysical distinctions rather than separable physical entities, Feijoo hoped to preserve what was valuable in Aristotelian philosophy, while giving modern physico-mathematics full freedom to discover physical realities.  Aristotelian principles persisted even in Copernican arguments; for example, Copernicans argued that if there were no diurnal rotation, the earth’s magnetism would have no use, and nature creates nothing that is useless.[100]

            In the late eighteenth century, Feijoo’s harsh yet civil criticism of Spanish intellectual culture was overtaken by a torrid polemic, initiated by Nicolas Maisson de Morvilliers’ notorious article on Spain in the Encyclopédie methodique (Paris, 1782).  Maisson accused “the most ignorant nation in Europe” of systematic intellectual repression through religious and ethnocentric bigotry.  Exaggeratedly, Maisson claimed that Spain possessed “neither mathematicians, nor physicists, nor astronomers, nor naturalists,” and that she was utterly dependent on foreigners in all the sciences and technical arts.  At the end, he tempered his “impartial” criticism with an optimistic note that the Spanish crown was working to address some of the institutional abuses that prevented men of merit from achieving influence, and that Spanish industry was on the rise.[101]  Still, the overwhelming tone of the article ridiculed Spanish contributions to science in the early modern period.

            Spanish responses to Maisson’s article were ideologically charged.  Some, like Juan Pablo Forner,[102] defended their national pride by producing litanies of accomplished Spanish intellectuals.  These arguments usually had to reach into the medieval period or include artists and writers.[103]  Others, like L. Cañuelo,[104] admitted Spain had contributed relatively little to early modern science, and sought to assign blame according their political inclinations.  Notwithstanding the pseudo-historical theories advanced during this period, the debate itself testified the extent to which modern scientific ideas could be freely circulated in Spain. Whatever despotism might have prevailed in the seventeenth century, Spanish science no longer suffered from institutional suppression, but from a cultural conservatism exemplified not only by hardened scholastics, but by the popular classes who resisted new cosmologies long after the intellectual community had accepted them.


Theological Reconciliation in Nineteenth-Century Spain and Italy


            We have primarily examined the responses of scientists and theologians to Copernicanism, since only the educated discussed astronomical matters in detail, yet people of all other classes and educational backgrounds certainly had definite opinions on cosmology, and the transformation of their opinions is also worthy of investigation.  Adequate treatment of this subject would be a labor in itself, so for now it should suffice to discuss changes in religious ideas that enabled a broader acceptance of Copernicanism.

            The growing consensus among Catholic scientists that heliocentrism was “true” did not mean that popular acceptance of the theory was simply a matter of education and opening society to new ideas.  It is dangerous to argue that Copernicanism prevailed because it is “right,” not only because Einstein’s relativity makes geocentrism and heliocentrism equally valid,[105] but also because it remains possible to construct cosmologies on non-mathematical principles that are equally convincing to their adherents.  Thus conservative Catholic authors remained cautious about asserting heliocentrism as true well into the nineteenth century, since none of the scientific or philosophical developments described could abolish the Scriptural arguments for geocentrism, which remained formidable.  One last transformation would need to take place in theology, either by changing the rules of exegesis or by modifying the current understanding of the nature of Biblical inspiration.

Throughout the early modern period, there was surprising consistency on one peculiar point in the understanding of Biblical inspiration. The Catholic hierarchy, the Lutherans, as well as Galileo and even Newton, all accepted the premise that both the Holy Spirit and the inspired human author knew the reality of scientific matters, even when describing them according to the capacities of the unlearned (i.e., the “principle of accommodation”).  Long after Petrarch and other Renaissance humanists had admonished men not to admire ancient wisdom uncritically, there persisted in Europe the curious belief that a vast deposit of knowledge had been accessible to the ancients and then lost.  Bellarmine alluded to this belief in his letter to Foscarini when he noted that Solomon “was a man wise above all others and most learned in human sciences,” so that it was “not too likely that he would affirm something which was contrary to a truth either already demonstrated, or likely to be demonstrated.”[106] Galileo shared this high estimation of ancient wisdom, asserting that “not only respect for the incapacity of the vulgar, but also current opinion in those times, made the sacred authors accommodate themselves (in matters unnecessary to salvation) more to accepted usage than to the true essence of things.”[107]  Thus Galileo did not propose a new way of understanding Biblical inerrancy, but differed only on exegetical principles.  In matters not pertaining to faith and morals, theologians ought not to assert any interpretation as certain, but should instead allow their interpretations to be informed by the demonstrations of the other sciences.  This, as noted previously, was controversial enough, since it seemed to invert the hierarchy of the sciences, but it did not involve a new understanding of Biblical inspiration.

Without an alternative understanding of the nature of divine inspiration, the uneasy tension between Copernicanism and theology would persist long after Pope Benedict’s reform.  Thus as late as 1819, Canon Thomas Settele, an astronomy professor in Rome, was denied permission to publish his Manual on optics and astronomy, because it described the motion of the earth “not as a simple hypothesis but as a scientific truth.”[108]  Settele’s protest resulted in the formal revocation of any ban on heliocentrism in 1822.  Although this prohibition had long been a dead letter from the Vatican’s perspective, there remained Catholic theologians and philosophers zealous for its enforcement.  The Dialogo was removed from the Index in 1835, nearly a century after Benedict XIV permitted its publication, and in 1851, Foucault’s use of a pendulum to demonstrate the planet’s diurnal rotation abolished whatever lingering scientific doubt might have remained about the reality of the earth’s motion.

            Long after the scientific debate had ended, and more than a century after the papacy had come to terms with Copernicus, a significant number of Catholic theologians modified their understanding of Biblical inspiration to account for discrepancies with facts of history and science.  One radical solution, popularized in the Enlightenment, was to regard the Bible as fallible in matters not pertaining to faith and morals; this view gained added momentum with the development of Wellhausen’s school of “higher criticism.”  The Catholic Church never accepted this extreme as orthodox, though it would become a commonly held view among Catholics and Protestants in the twentieth century.  Modern Biblical criticism did influence conservative theologians in other aspects, allowing them to raise issues of literary genre more liberally when a literal rendering yielded scientifically or historically false statements.  Pope Leo XIII defined an acceptable synthesis of tradition and modern criticism in his encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893), which rejected higher criticism and affirmed total Biblical inerrancy, yet, quoting St. Augustine, cautioned theologians not to rashly assert statements about physical science, which the Bible did not intend to teach.  Most notably, Pope Leo wrote:

…the sacred writers, or to speak more accurately, the Holy Ghost “Who spoke by them, did not intend to teach men these things (that is to say, the essential nature of the things of the visible universe), things in no way profitable unto salvation.” Hence they did not seek to penetrate the secrets of nature, but rather described and dealt with things in more or less figurative language, or in terms which were commonly used at the time, and which in many instances are in daily use at this day, even by the most eminent men of science. Ordinary speech primarily and properly describes what comes under the senses; and somewhat in the same way the sacred writers-as the Angelic Doctor also reminds us – “went by what sensibly appeared,” or put down what God, speaking to men, signified, in the way men could understand and were accustomed to.[109]


The sense of this text suggests a limitation in the scientific understanding of the inspired authors, in contrast with the early modern opinions previously discussed.  This belated reconciliation of Catholic theology with science appealed to an earlier Augustinian and Thomistic tradition of moderation that had been abandoned in the martial atmosphere of the Counter-Reformation and Counter-Enlightenment. Yet Providentissimus Deus contained several modern elements, not least of which was the quiet abandonment of the belief that the ancients had special knowledge of scientific matters.   This solution, unfortunately for the study of theology, came long after the scientific debate, and theologians increasingly found themselves straining to fit their interpretations within parameters set by other disciplines.  Mathematicians and physicists had already seized the initiative from theologians and philosophers, and they would continue to stake greater claims to the right to define reality.


Epilogue: Quantum Mechanics and Bellarmine


            In the last century, theoretical physics appears to have progressively undermined the claim that quantitative analysis yields knowledge of ontological reality, returning us to a situation very similar to the position of Cardinal Bellarmine.  Bellarmine had contended, as was common at the time, that mathematical theories can at best “save the appearances,” without proving anything about physical reality.  With Einsteinian relativity, physicists have come to understand that there is no absolute position or motion, from which it follows that the rest frame of the earth and that of the sun are equally valid reference frames, with neither having a greater claim to physical reality.  All motion, in contemporary physics, is relative motion.

            More generally, it appears that physics has reduced itself to a theory of appearances (or Aristotelian “accidents”), since physical properties (momentum, mass, energy, etc.) have no independent existence apart from some hypothetical substance (particle or field) that is said to possess these properties.  Quantum mechanics has shown that physical properties have no well-defined value outside of a “measurement,” causing many to question whether substances (particles or fields) have any real existence apart from their measured effects (accidents or properties).  Contrary to Aristotle’s conception of physics as a theory of substances, modern physics has become a theory of accidents that are reified as though they were substances. Thus one speaks of momentum and energy as if they were fluids that one can have in greater or lesser quantity, and can be transferred from one carrier to the next, all the while claiming that these properties are only qualities of measurement, and have no ontological existence outside of measurements.  Most physicists do not worry about this philosophical incoherence, being satisfied that quantum calculations predict experimental results.  As geocentric astronomers used epicycles and eccentrics interchangeably, physicists treat substances as particles or waves depending on mathematical exigencies, dismissing concerns as to which description is “real.” In other words, it suffices that the mathematics “saves the appearances.”

            The fact that the relationship between physics and reality is completely unresolved should motivate historians to avoid presenting a triumphalist or evolutionary description of any scientific development, as though the result were foreordained by truth itself.  In the case of Copernicanism, we have seen that Spanish and Italian cultures were placed in a state of tension resulting from conflicting commitments to theological, philosophical, and physico-mathematical modes of understanding.  The eventual decision to allow the last to substantially increase its claim on the European mind was neither inevitable nor irreversible.  Long after most theological and political barriers to teaching Copernicanism had been removed, substantive resistance persisted even among philosophical reformers.  What does seem clear is that the success of a theory depends on its ability to integrate with existing culture, as much as intellectual traditions like Christian theology need sufficient flexibility to incorporate successful theories peaceably, lest they find themselves on the embarrassing end of a fruitless conflict.




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[1] See, e.g., David C. Lindberg, “Galileo, the Church, and the Cosmos,” in David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, eds., When Science and Christianity Meet (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 33-60.

[2] Domenico Berti, Copernico e le vicende del sistema Copernicana in Italia nella seconda metà del secolo XVI e nella prima del XVII (Rome: G.B. Paravia, 1876), p.171. “Die 8 martii 1496. Adprobatus fuit in medicina nemine discrepante, M.r Nicolaus de Alemania.”

[3] Ibid., pp. 193-94. 16 Feb 1873 letter from Andrea Gloria, director of the archive: “…ho letti diligentemente tutti quagli Atti dal 1489 al 1502….  In breve posso con sicurezza affermare che oggi nella nostra università e nell’Archivio di essa non esistono certamente memorie manoscritte, né veruna iscrizione, che risguardi Copernico.”

[4] Pope Alexander did grant Copernicus a Jubilee blessing, but there is no evidence that the Polish astronomer gave a lecture before the pontiff, as depicted in a famous painting by Wojciech Gerson (1831-1901).

[5] Ibid., p.61. From V. Tiraboschi, “Storia della Letteratura Italiana” v. VIII, pp. 321-22.

[6] “Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded.”  Nicholas Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Nuremburg, 1543), Edward Rosen, trans. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), Preface.

[7] Loc. cit.

[8] Martin Luther, Tischreden, June 4, 1539, No. 4638.

[9] Manuel Fernández Álvarez, Copérnico y su huella en la Salamanca del Barroco (Salamanca: Univ. de Salamanca, 1974), p.11.

[10] Ibid., p.18. Citing E. Bustos Tovar, La introducción de las teorias de Copérnico en la Universidad de Salamanca.

[11] Ibid., pp.19-20.

[12] Ibid., pp.22-23. Citing the “Scriptura de la Librería de la Universidad de Salamanca hecha por Miguel Velasco y su mujer,” (1611).

[13] José María López Piñero, Ciencia y técnica en la sociedad española de los siglos XVI y XVII (Barcelona: Labor Universitaria, 1979), pp.187-88. “El contexto no resultaría coherente si se hablara de la Tierra inmóvil, como afirman los filósofos.”

[14] Council of Trent, 4th session, 8 April 1546. “It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals… presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church… hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers…” Norman P. Tanner, ed., trans., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Univ. Press, 1990).

[15] López Piñero, op. cit., p. 188.  Quoting Diego de Zúñiga, In Iob commentaria.

[16] Loc. cit.

[17] The account of Bruno’s execution (17 February 1600) is preoccupied with his religious rather than cosmological heterodoxy: “heretico obstinatissimo et havendo di suo capriccio formato diversi dogmi contro nostra Fede ed in particolare contro la SS.ma Virgine et i Santi…” In Berti, op. cit., p. 222.

[18] Galileo Galilei, Le macchie solari (1613), in Le Opere di Galileo Galilei: Edizione Nazionale sotto gli auspicii di Sua Maestà il Re d’Italia, 20 vols. (Florence: Barbèra, 1890-1909), V, 138-140. Notably, the work was published in the vernacular, out of Galileo’s humanistic concern for the cultivation of Florentine literature.

[19] Henrique Leitão, “Jesuit Mathematical Practice in Portugal, 1540-1759, in Mordechai Feingold, ed., The New Science and the Jesuit Science: Seventeenth Century Perspectives (Dordrecht, Neth.: Kluwer, 2003), p. 236.

[20] Galileo, Al Discorso di Lodovico delle Colombe, in Opere, III, 255-58. “Sarebbono matti, a rispondere a queste pippionate.” Pippione refers to the peeping sounds one makes to a pigeon (colombo) until it hatches.  Despite such comments, Galileo did address several parts of Colombe’s discourse with mechanical counter-arguments.

[21] Ugo Baldini, Saggi sulla cultura della Compagnia di Gesù (secoli XVI-XVIII) (Padua: CLEUP Editrice, 2000), p. 19.

[22] An epicycle is a circular path centered on the main geocentric orbit, resulting in a compound cycloid motion. An eccentric is as an orbit whose center is shifted from the earth’s position.

[23] Ibid., p. 30.

[24] Copernicus, op. cit., Preface.

[25] Baldini, op. cit., p. 24.

[26] René Fulöp-Miller, The Power and Secret of the Jesuits, F.S. Flint and D.F. Tai, trans. (New York: Viking Press, 1930) [Macht und Geheimnis der Jesuiten (Leipzig: Grethlein, 1929)], p. 397.

[27] Mordechai Feingold, “The Grounds for Conflict: Greinberger, Grassi, Galileo and Posterity,” in Mordechai Feingold, ed., The New Science and Jesuit Science: Seventeenth Century Perspectives (Dordrecht, Neth: Kluwer, 2003), pp. 126-28.

[28] Baldini, op. cit., p. 54. Clavius outlined his pedagogical ideas in “Modus quo disciplinae mathematicae in scholis Societatis possent promoveri,” in Monumenta Paedagogica Societatis Jesu quae Primam Rationem Studiroum anno 1586 praecessere (Madrid: A. Avrial, 1901).

[29] Michael John Gorman, “Mathematics and Modesty in the Society of Jesus: The Problems of Christoph Grienberger,” in Feingold, New Science, op. cit., p. 22.

[30] Mordechai Feingold, “The Jesuits: Savants,” in Mordechai Feingold, ed., Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), p. 20.

[31] Galileo to Benedetto Castelli, 21 December 1613. Galileo maintained that the sun’s rotation on its axis was the source of all planetary motion, hence the “stopping” of the sun in Joshua referred to a halt in the sun’s rotation. This letter was greatly expanded into the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany (1615).

[32] Cardinal Robert Bellarmine to Paolo Foscarini, 12 April 1615. Quoted in Jerome J. Langford, Galileo, Science and the Church (New York: Desclee, 1966), p. 61.

[33] Loc. cit.

[34] Mordechai Feingold, “The Grounds for Conflict: Grienberger, Grassi, Galileo, and Posterity,” in Feingold, The New Science, op. cit., p. 132.

[35] Ibid., p. 133.

[36] “Yet even in those propositions which are not matters of faith, [Biblical] authority ought to be preferred over that of all human writings which are supported only by bare assertions or probable arguments, and not set forth in a demonstrative way.” Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in Stillman Drake, trans., Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957), p. 183.

[37] Berti, op. cit., pp.107-8.  Henri de l’Espinois, Galilèe, son process, sa condamnation d’après des documents inédits (Paris: 1867), Foglio 377.

[38] Archbishop Dini had indicated in March 1615 that Bellarmine found “the greatest obstacle…to be the passage ‘[the sun] rejoiceth as a giant to run the way’ [Psalm 19:4] together with the words that follow, which all commentators up to now have understood as implying that the sun is in motion.”  Galileo, Opere, XII, 151. Trans. in Langford, op. cit., p. 59.

[39] Augustus de Morgan, A Budget of Paradoxes, 2nd ed. (London: Open Court, 1915), Vol.1, pp. 90-96.

[40] Owen Gingrich, “The Censorship of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus,Journal of the American Statistical Association 33 (March 1981): 58-60.

[41] López Piñero, op. cit., p. 186.

[42] Alfredo Dinis, “Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science of His Time,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., p.200.

[43] Edward Grant, “The Partial Transformation of Medieval Cosmology by Jesuits in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., p. 141. “Sed motu propio sicut aves per aerem, et pisces per aquam.”  From U. Baldini and G. Coyne, eds., The Louvain Lectures (Lectiones Lovainienses) of Bellarmine and the Autograph Copy of his 1616 Declaration to Galileo (Vatican City: 1984), pp. 19, 38.

[44] Archimedean statics was a “mixed” science that mathematically described simple machines like the lever, wedge, and inclined plane.  Although it sometimes contradicted Aristotelian physics, it was permitted as a practical calculus.

[45] William A. Wallace, “Galileo’s Jesuit Connections and Their Influence on His Science,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., p. 103. From logical questions in Pisan manuscript 27, De praecognitionibus et praecognitis.

[46] Galileo Galilei, Dialogue on the Great World Systems (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1953), pp. 59-60.

[47] Wallace, op. cit., p. 110.

[48] Berti, op. cit., p.252. Galileo probably alluded to this concession in his interrogation on 12 April 1633: “Una mattina (il 26 febbraio [1616]) il sig. Cardinale Bellarmino mi mandò a chiamare e mi disse un certo particolare qual io vorrei dire all’orecchio di Sua Santità prima che ad altri.”

[49] Baldini, op. cit., p. 59.

[50] Michael J. Gorman, “The Scientific Counter-Revolution: Mathematics, natural philosophy and experimentalism in Jesuit culture, 1580-c.1670” (Ph.D. diss., European Univ. Inst., 1998), p. 250.  Claudio Constantini, “Un Batello Insommergibile Ideato da Orazio Grassi,” Nuova Rivista Storica, 50 (1966): 731-7.

[51] Dinis, op. cit., p.199.

[52] Ibid., p.206.

[53] See, e.g., Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1977).

[54] Feingold, “The Jesuits: Savants,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., p. 26.

[55] Maurizio Torrini, Dopo Galileo: una polemica scientifica (1684-1711) (Florence: Olschki, 1979), p. 18.

[56] Ibid., p. 89.

[57] Grant, in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., pp. 141-2.

[58] See C.R. Palmerino and J.M.M.H. Thijssen, eds., The Reception of the Galilean Science of Motion in Seventeenth-Century Europe (Dordrecht, Neth: Kluwer, 2004).

[59] Berti, op. cit., p. 152.

[60] Paolo Casati, Terra Machinis Mota Dissertationes Geometricae, Mechanicae, Physicae, Hydrostaticae in quibus Machinarum Coniugarturum vires inter se comparantur: Multipli Nova Methodo Terrae magnitudo & Gravitas investigatur (Rome: Ignazio de Lazaro, 1658).

[61] Palermino, op. cit.

[62] A. Rupert Hall, “Galileo nel XVIII secolo,” Rivista di filosofia, 15 (Turin, 1979), p. 371.

[63] Ibid., p. 372.

[64] Vincenzo Ferrone, The Intellectual Roots of the Italian Enlightenment (New Jersey: Humanities, 1995), p.55.

[65] Vincenzo Ferrone, “Celestino Galiani e la diffusione del newtonianesimo: Appunti e documenti per una storia della cultura scientifica italiana del primo Settecento, Giornale critico della filosofia italiana, 61 (1982), p. 3.

[66] Ibid., p. 5.

[67] Brendan Dooley, “The Storia Letteraria D’Italia and the Rehabilitation of Jesuit Science,” in Feingold, ed., Jesuit Science, op. cit., p. 447.

[68] Ibid., p. 455.

[69] Ibid., p. 459.

[70] Hall, op. cit., pp. 375-78, 83.

[71] López Piñero, op. cit., p.91.

[72] Ibid., pp. 116-17.

[73] Ibid., pp. 118-19.

[74] Ibid., p. 373.

[75] Stanley G. Payne, A History of Spain and Portugal, Vol. 1 (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin, 1973), p. 291.

[76] Ibid.,  p. 303.

[77] Victor Navarro, “Tradition and Scientific Change in Early Modern Spain: The Role of the Jesuits,” in Feingold, Jesuit Science, op. cit., p. 331.

[78] Leitão, in Feingold, New Science, op. cit., pp. 232, 234-36.

[79] Baldini, op. cit., p. 71.

[80] Leitão, op. cit., p. 238.

[81] Navarro, op. cit., p. 332.

[82] López Piñero, op. cit., pp. 404-7.

[83] Ibid., pp. 436-39.

[84] Ibid., pp. 439-40.

[85] Ibid., pp. 440-43.

[86] Ibid., p. 445.

[87] Ibid., p. 448.

[88] Ibid., p. 447.

[89] Navarro, op. cit., p. 365.

[90] Ibid., pp. 332, 338-39.

[91] Irving A. Leonard, Don Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1929), p. 9.

[92] Ibid., p. 75.

[93] Dąbek, Roman. “Teoria Kopernika w Nowym Świecie,Głos Uczelni v. 11 (2), Torun, Poland: Univ. of Nicholas Copernicus Press, 2002.

[94] Pere Planesas Bigas, “José Celestino Mutis, Astrónomo,” Anuario del Observatorio Astronómico (Instituto Geográfico Nacional, 1996), pp. 281-2.

[95] John Wilton Appel, “Francisco José de Caldas: A Scientist at Work in Nueva Granada,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 84, no. 5 (1994), pp.76-7.

[96] Benito Jerónimo Feijoo, Cartas eruditas, y curiosas (Madrid: Ibarra, 1774), v. 3, xx, 27. Letter dated 1750.

[97] Ibid., xx, 29.

[98] Feijoo, “Causas del atraso que se padece en España en orden a las ciencias naturales, ” in Cartas, op. cit., v. 2, xvi.

[99] Feijoo, Teatro crítico universal, op. cit.,  v. 7, xiii, 35.

[100] Feijoo, Cartas, op. cit., xx, 18.

[101] Nicolas Maisson de Morvilliers, “Espagne,” Géographie Moderne, in Encyclopédie Methodique (Paris: 1782), v. I, pp. 554-68.

[102] Juan Pablo Forner, “Oración apologética por la España y su mérito literario,” (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1786).

[103] Even the Italian historian Carlo Denini (1731-1813) joined the debate, claiming he possessed a 1635 letter of Galileo indicating that a “Msgr. Guevara” (Cardinal Guevara?) had contributed observations. See Ernesto and Enrique García Camarero, eds., La polemica de la ciencia española (Madrid: Alianza, 1970), p. 71.

[104] The probable author of the article “Discurso CX,” El Censor, 5 (Madrid: 1786): 775-94.

[105] In modern relativity, there are no absolute frames of reference, but all that can be said is that the laws of physics (e.g., Newtonian mechanics and Maxwell’s electromagnetic equations) are invariant under “inertial transformations,” that is, changes from one reference frame to another that is moving inertially with respect to the first.

[106] In Langford, op. cit., p. 61.

[107] Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in Drake, op. cit., p. 200.

[108] Klaus Fischer, Galileo Galilei (Barcelona: Herder, 1986), p. 167.

[109] Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, encyclical (1893), xviii, 52-54.

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