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Eileen Reeves
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Galileo and the Dutch telescope have long enjoyed a durable connection in the popular mind, transforming a rather modest middle-aged scholar into the icon of the Copernican Revolution. And yet the speed with which the telescope changed the course of Galileo's life and early modern astronomy obscures his actual delayed encounter with the instrument. This book considers the lapse between the telescope's 1608 creation in The Hague and Galileo's acquaintance with such news ten months later. Along the way, Reeves offers a revised chronology of Galileo's life in this critical period.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04263-6
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology, Astronomy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: The Hague, 1608
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Dutch telescope and the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei have enjoyed a durable connection in the popular mind, so much so that one might argue that it was this simple instrument that transformed a rather modest middle-aged scholar and tutor in Padua into Europe’s best-known private citizen, the bold icon of the Copernican Revolution, and the most celebrated casualty of Counter-Reformation science. The telescope appears to have changed Galileo’s life and the course of early modern astronomy with extraordinary rapidity: about eighteen months elapsed between the invention of the instrument in The Hague and the publication of Galileo’sStarry Messenger...

  4. Chapter One The Daily Mirror of Empire
    (pp. 15-46)

    The notion of telescopic vision long predates the telescope. The idea of a telescopic mirror emerged in literary and philosophical works of the medieval period, and there was an ongoing discussion of such mirrors in the early modern era. Many allusions to such mirrors are characterized by nostalgia: the wondrous devices of antiquity are always busted, rusted, or in some way defunct, and their disappearance often coincides with the end of an overstretched empire. Increasingly, however, writers began to suggest that these instruments were not the props of an irretrievable imperial past, but rather that various medieval figures—most typically,...

  5. Chapter Two Idle Inventions
    (pp. 47-80)

    The interest in telescopic devices was doubtless enhanced by actual developments in the design of metal and glass mirrors, and by hyperbolic descriptions of things that once had been and might again be accomplished with such instruments.Lesensteineor “reading stones,” transparent stones that provided slight magnification to the page beneath them, appeared around the mid-thirteenth century, and convex lenses were adapted as reading glasses shortly thereafter.¹ Both devices, especially the latter, provided a growing segment of the European population with some familiarity with the magnification of nearby objects, but when the same effect was achieved through the use of...

  6. Chapter Three Obscure Procedures and Odd Opponents
    (pp. 81-114)

    Any attempt to gauge the reactions of Galileo and his close associate Paolo Sarpi to the rumor of the Dutch telescope must naturally begin with an assessment of their understanding of telescopic vision prior to their encounter with the news from The Hague. Sarpi’s optical study from the late 1570s through 1600 and Galileo’s interest in the discipline from his arrival in the Veneto in 1592 through 1607 are of particular importance. Although it would be unwise to assume that these men held identical views about the production of telescopic effects, both were familiar with the ongoing discussion about concave...

  7. Chapter Four The Dutch Telescope and the French Mirror
    (pp. 115-144)

    Sometime in November 1608, Fra Paolo Sarpi encounteredThe Embassy of the King of Siam Sent to His Excellency Maurice of Nassau, a French-language news pamphlet from The Hague describing the first visit of the Siamese to Europe, portraying the gifts their ruler had sent abroad, offering a brief sketch of the wealth, culture, religion, and political structure of that remote kingdom, and alluding to the commercial inroads made by the Dutch East India Company, largely at the expense of the Portuguese, in the Far East.¹ The news of the expedition, with somewhat different accounts of the gifts involved, had...

  8. Chapter Five The Afterlife of a Legend
    (pp. 145-166)

    Of the many disputes surrounding Galileo, his alleged appropriation of the Dutch telescope is almost certainly the best known. This popular impression, which emerged in August 1609 in connection with della Porta’s claim to priority, is somewhat surprising, given that Galileo never professed to have invented the telescope, and that, as this book has argued, his earliest concept of that instrument’s design was inaccurate. The notion that led him, Sarpi, and others astray in their first encounter with the news from the Netherlands had a certain afterlife, for the two devices appear to have been confused elsewhere. And the features...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 169-218)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 219-222)
  11. Index
    (pp. 223-231)