The Roman Inquisition Forces Galileo To Recant His Beliefs

Today on June 22, 1633, the Roman Inquisition under direction from Pope Urban VIII forces Galileo to recant his views on heliocentrism.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian polymath with interests spanning across many disciplines. He has been dubbed the Father of Modern Science for his impact on observational astronomy and physics. Galileo is perhaps most well-known for contributions to the field of astronomy, yet he was also a physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician. He spent much of his career championing and proving Copernicanism - a heliocentric system in which the Earth and the other planets orbit around the sun. His theory was utterly contrary to the commonly held belief of a geocentric universe.

In 1615, the Roman Inquisition previously stated that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd” and defied the Holy Scripture. The Inquisition was a system of tribunals executed by the Holy See to prosecute individuals on a wide array of accusations. It primarily targeted people that were proposing alternative religious beliefs and theories contrary to Catholic teachings. In 1632, Galileo published his famous book "A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems". In many ways, it was a continuation of Copernican theories that opposed the Catholic Church. The Bible stated the planets and the sun revolve around the Earth, not the sun.

Galileo initially published his book under exclusive license from the Vatican and only focused on comparing the Copernican system with the traditional Ptolemaic system. The following year, the Roman Inquisition found Galileo to be “vehemently suspect of heresy.” Pope Urban VIII insisted on having a trial and forced Galileo to recant his beliefs. His book was immediately placed on the Index of Forbidden Books and not removed for over 200 years. As punishment, Galileo lived out his remaining days under house arrest. During this time, he wrote another well-known book called the Two New Sciences, which examined kinematics (a branch of mechanics and motion) and the strength of materials. He died eight years later at the age of 77.

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