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     The Burdensome Inheritance of the Galileo Affair Given the purpose of this book, the nine years between the end of the trial and the death of Galileo will receive only a very brief treatment. This certainly does not mean that less value is given to that period from either a human or a scientific point of view. In fact, Galileo was never as great as he was in those final years, which saw him wrestling with incredible courage and tenacity against so much physical and moral suffering , so as to leave his most lasting scientific testament, the Discourses. The day after his condemnation and abjuration, the imprisonment of Galileo in the Holy Office was commuted to one in the gardens of Villa Medici, the beautiful property of the Tuscan embassy in Rome, built by Michelangelo, as a place where the Tuscan ambassadors would spend when possible a pleasant and restful time. And the following week he was granted permission to move to Siena, under house arrest in the residence of his old friend, Archbishop Piccolomini. After another six months, Urban VIII allowed Galileo “to return to his villa [at Arcetri, on the hills of Florence] to live there in solitude, without summoning anyone, or without receiving for a conversation those who might come, and that for a period of time to be decided by His Holiness” (Galileo, 215 Fantoli-07_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:47 PM Page 215 Opere, 19:389). This period, in fact, lasted until his death, and Galileo would continue to experience for the rest of his years the severity of remaining under the control of the Holy Office. The prohibition of the Dialogue, his condemnation, and the abjuration had been for Galileo, without a doubt, his greatest sorrows. There awaited him after his return to Arcetri a still greater suffering of a different kind, the death of his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. During his trial and the subsequent stay in Siena, the young religious had been close to her father in a special way, with letters from which there came forth the full richness of heart, and the profound intelligence and sensitivity, of this favorite daughter of Galileo, together with a religious conviction that was not at all ostentatious or forced. The letters in which Galileo informed relatives and friends of the news of her death are a moving testimony of the depth of his sorrow and of the void that the death of his daughter had left in his life. As to the physical sufferings, the cruelest was surely that caused by his loss of eyesight. The worsening condition of his sight and then of his complete blindness comes back time and time again in Galileo’s letters from 1630 on. In the well-known letter to Diodati (December 19, 1637), the by now blind Galileo wrote: Alas, my lord, your dear friend and servant Galileo has for the past month become irreparably blind. Now imagine, Your Lordship, how afflicted I am as I think about that sky, that world and that universe that I with my marvelous observations and clear demonstrations had opened up hundred and thousand times more than had been commonly seen by the sages of all bygone centuries, now for me it is diminished and limited so that it is not any greater than the space I occupy. (Galileo, Opere, 17:237) In spite of so many sufferings and in the impossibility of carrying on his explicitly Copernican program, Galileo had decided to put together in a definite, systematic way his studies in mechanics. He was no doubt well aware of the importance for the Copernican issue of the results that he had obtained with them. In fact, they constituted the starting point of that new natural philosophy that one day would allow the 216 ✦ The Case of Galileo Fantoli-07_Layout 1 1/16/12 12:47 PM Page 216 unopposed triumph of the new vision of the world and would oblige the Church to change her mind. Spurred on by his friends and disciples old and new, such as Castelli , Bonaventura Cavalieri, and Evangelista Torricelli, Galileo succeeded in completing his work, to which he gave the title Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences, published in 1638. After many difficulties had been overcome, this work was printed in 1638 in Leiden, Holland, by the famous publisher Elzevier. The same editor had already published in France (Strasbourg, 1636) the...


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