We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Galileo's Pendulum

Science, Sexuality, and the Body-Instrument Link

Dusan I. Bjelic, Michael Lynch

Publication Year: 2003

Drawing on the theories of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, and others who have written on the history of sexuality and the body, Galileo’s Pendulum explores how the emergence of the scientific method in the seventeenth century led to a de-emphasis on the body and sexuality. The first half of the book focuses on the historical modeling of the relation between pleasure and knowledge by examining a history of scientific rationality and its relation to the formation of the modern scientist’s subjectivity. Relying on Foucault’s history of sexuality, the author hypothesizes that Galileo’s pendulum, as an extension of mathematics and the body, must have been sexualized by schemes of historical representation to the same extent that such schemes were rationalized by Galileo. The second half of the book explores the problems of scientific methodology and attempts to return the body in an explicit way to scientific practice. Ultimately, Galileo’s Pendulum offers a discursive method and praxis for resexualizing the history of Galilean science.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Science, Technology, and Society (discontinued)

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.0 KB)
pp. iii-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.5 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (139.3 KB)
pp. ix-xiv

To appreciate Dusan Bjelic’s treatment of Galileo’s pendulum it is necessary to understand what it is not. It is not a straightforward contribution to the history of science. Nor is it a “social” or “philosophical” study of science in the usual sense. The book is sociologically inspired, it investigates the fundamental philosophical question of the relationship between experience and the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (84.7 KB)
pp. xv

For writing the first part of the book I would like to extend my gratitude to Lucinda Cole, who gave me a fresh perspective on the writings of Michel Foucault and gave me a generous help in the composition of the text. Discussions with Arnold Davidson about Foucault, Mario Biagioli, and James MacLachlan on Galileo were extremely helpful in the narrative invention of “Foucault’s...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (168.6 KB)
pp. 1-15

“People used to have sex at these conferences,” a prominent cultural theorist of science from an Ivy League university nostalgically observed at an international conference on science. “Now,” she laments, “all they do is to talk about their work.” Her lamentation seems to miss here a larger point about the growing commerce between rationality and sex, between sexual deprivation...


read more

1. Time, Pleasure, and Knowledge

pdf iconDownload PDF (192.0 KB)
pp. 19-31

A bob attached to a string fixed to a permanent point vibrates until, influenced by gravity, it rests at the lowest position—this short description sums up the plain mechanics of Galileo’s pendulum. Its material austerity was lush in sexuality as much as in mathematics. In the Neoplatonic worldview, the two do not exclude one another. Because of the fusion between pleasure and abstract rules,...

read more

2. The Perversion of Objectivity and the Objectivity of Perversion

pdf iconDownload PDF (209.9 KB)
pp. 33-57

Some historians of science today reject the notion inherited from the philosophy of science that “objectivity” is an achievement of pure rationality and instead argue that it is an achievement of virtue. They trace the meaning of “objectivity” back to various moral, ethical, and aesthetic discourses, all of which belong to practices of subjectivities. Peter Dear points out that...

read more

3. The Jesuits’ Homosocial Ties and the Experiments with Galileo’s Pendulum

pdf iconDownload PDF (180.1 KB)
pp. 59-77

In 1597, in Manila’s Parish of San Ignacio, a group of Jesuit educators held flagellation exercises during Lent. A group of slaves “sang a solemn Miserere (Psalm 50/51) at the end.”1 In 1645, the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli decided to take Galileo to task and test his law on the pendulum. With his nine faithful Jesuit brothers, he went through a different type of bodily...


read more

4. The “Body-Instrument Link” and the Prism: A Case Study

pdf iconDownload PDF (243.1 KB)
pp. 81-113

In order to problematize the history of Galileo’s science and represent it as unrecognized erotic improvisation, so far I have emphasized Nietzsche’s claim that every knowledge rests on an injustice done to the body in the name of “timeless ideas,” and Foucault’s call for a method that would vindicate the body.1 But much too often we fall under the spell of this erotic improvisation...

read more

5. The Formal Structure of Galileo’s Pendulum

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.9 KB)
pp. 115-128

Historical representation of Galileo’s pendulum depends on the dominant mode of rationality and its strategic suppression of the body. I have already analyzed in the second chapter Koyré’s dry and strictly textual representation of Galileo’s pendulum as typical for the ways in which we know Galileo’s pendulum today. The main aspect of this representation is formal knowledge of...

read more

6. The Respecification of Galileo’s Pendulum

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.0 KB)
pp. 129-151

The lead balls used here to construct Galileo’s pendulum were obtained from Nasco Science ’96: Understanding Through Hands-On Science catalogue. When I received the catologue, I realized that finding Galileo’s pendulum in a book of hundreds of pages is in itself a method of discovery. I had to engage in holding and looking at the catalogue, and flipping the pages comparing...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (104.3 KB)
pp. 153-159

In Civilization and Its Discontents Freud asserts that “civilization is a process in the service of Eros.”1 Elias, moreover, insists that every civilization must incorporate painful discipline; and for Foucault this painful discipline, by imposing restrictions on our pleasures, is still fundamentally responsible for the invention, intensification and proliferation of these pleasures. If we ag...


pdf iconDownload PDF (263.2 KB)
pp. 161-198


pdf iconDownload PDF (138.2 KB)
pp. 199-205

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486092
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458815
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458814

Page Count: 221
Illustrations: 1 b/w photograph, 39 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Science, Technology, and Society (discontinued)

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Science -- Methodology.
  • Ethnomethodology.
  • Pendulum.
  • Galilei, Galileo, 1564-1642.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access