- Galileo's mother. An aristocratic woman, she was
dissatisfied with her middle- class financial status, and disapproved
of Galileo's father's dabbling in music.
- An ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, his theories
on physics and astronomy informed the conventional wisdom of Galileo's
- A Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church and a member
of the Jesuit order. A great intellect, he was initially well
disposed to Galileo, but Galileo's enthusiasm for the Copernican
system led to a falling-out between the men.
- A great Polish astronomer
in the early 16th century, he first proposed the theory that the
earth might go around the sun.
- Galileo's father. Vincenzo
made a living in the wool trade, but his first love was music.
- Galileo's mistress during his years at the University of
Padua, and the mother of his three children
- A great German astronomer and contemporary of Galileo's,
he was a staunch advocate of the Copernican system.
- A renowned astronomer in ancient Rome, he championed
the geocentric theory, which placed the earth at the center of
- A liberal Cardinal who was friendly with Galileo before
being elected Pope. However, Galileo's Dialogue Concerning
the Two Chief World Systems
alienated him–he felt it mocked
him–and he refused to support the astronomer during his trial.
Galileo's eldest and favorite daughter. She became a nun, and supported
her father during his Inquisition trial.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems - · Galileo's masterpiece. Published in 1632, this text
took the form of a dialogue in which one of the speakers fiercely
argued for the truth of the Copernican system. It was this work
that led to Galileo's trial for heresy before the Inquisition.
Geocentricity - · This theory, championed by Ptolemy, Aristotle, and
the Roman Catholic Church, held that the earth lies at the center
of the universe.
Heliocentricity - · The theory, developed by Copernicus and championed
by Galileo, which places the Earth in orbit around the sun.
Inquisition - · The Inquisition was a judicial institution formed by
the Catholic Church to suppress heretics, or anyone otherwise corrupting
the faith. The Inquisition took the form of a series of trials
and executions, and the Inquisitors were famous for their wil lingness to
torture and kill in the name of "Christianity." Galileo's arguments
in favor of heliocentricity led them to bring charges of heresy
Jesuits - · A religious order founded during the Counter-Reformation,
the Jesuits represented the most intellectual of the Church's arms, and
the order produced many great scientists. However, the Jesuits
passionately championed orthodoxy, and when they became rivals
with Galileo over scientific issues, they worked to ensure his
Catholic Church - · Headed by the Pope in Rome, Catholicism constituted
the only Christian church in Western Europe during medieval times.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, however, the Protestant Reformation
created breakaway churches in northern Europe, and Catholicism
became locked in a struggle with the dissenters.
Sidereus Nuncius - · Meaning "Starry Messenger," this was the title of the
1610 treatise in which Galileo described the early observations
that he had made with his telescope. It described mountains on
the moon, and other moons orbiting Jupiter, and became a sensational
bestseller in Europe.
Counter-Reformation - · The Catholic response to the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation
began as an initiative of the Council of Trent in the 1540s, and
involved a fierce defense of orthodoxy and tradition. The Jesuits,
a new religious order, served as the chief agents of this movement,
and the movement led the Church into conflict with the rising tide
of scientific discoveries.
Protestant Reformation - · This movement began under Martin Luther in northern
Europe, and by the mid-15th century had spread across Germany into Scandinavia
and England. It protested the worldliness and corruption of Catholicism
during the Renaissance, but also the Catholic tradition in general,
as it sought to uncover an "original," "pure" form of Christianity,
more in keeping with Jesus's original teachings and less preoccupied
with ceremony. (For more information, see the History SparkNote
on the Reformation.
- · Literally meaning "re-birth," the Renaissance saw the
rebirth, or reintroduction, of classical art and literature in
the 15th and 16th century, following the "dark ages" of the medieval
period, during which these works had been forgotten or lost. Art
and culture flowered, and an air of vibrancy pervaded Europe, and especially
Italy, which was the center of the movement. The Renaissance produced
some of the West's greatest works of art; however, it was also
a time of corruption in political spheres, as well as in the Catholic
Church; the Church's moral decadence during these years led to
the Reformation. (For more information, see the History SparkNote
on theItalian Renaissance