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  • Galileo's Astrology. Vol. 7, no. 1 of Culture and Cosmos
  • Patrick J. Boner
Nicholas Campion and Nick Kollerstrom , eds. Galileo's Astrology. Vol. 7, no. 1 of Culture and Cosmos. Bristol: Cinnabar Books, 2003. viii + 176 pp. append. illus. tbls. $30. ISBN: 1-898485-09-7.

Introduced as "a collection of stand-alone papers on a single theme" (v), Galileo's Astrology sets out to explore the significance of astrology in Galileo's [End Page 222] personal practice and sociocultural context. The volume contains primary sources taken from Galileo's scant collection of extant astrological writings, which are arranged into individual chapters together with works of original secondary scholarship. The volume is designed to explore astrological episodes from Galileo's career, including his summons to a Paduan court in 1604 under charges of "astral determinism" (39), his naming of the four moons of Jupiter discovered in 1610 after members of the Medici family, and the birth charts he drew up for various patrons. Each section similarly aims to offer insight into the efforts of one of "the last of the great medieval astrologers" (5). Easing transitions between chapters through introductions, supplementary notes, and concluding comments, Galileo's Astrology conveys an engaging account of a once-obscure side of the celebrated scientific figure. While the work does little to situate astrology in Galileo's broader worldview, it does take crucial steps beyond his mere acceptance of astrology. Greater priority is given to glimpsing ways in which astrology can eventually be integrated into a richer understanding of Galileo's perceived and projected persona — it shows, for example, how the "astrological logic" in which he "truly believed" (13, 65) not only provided a source of personal interest, but won him widespread recognition as a skilled astrological practitioner.

Galileo's Astrology combines contributions from historians of science and professional astrologers, beginning with the "trail blazing essay" (9) of Antonio Favaro, considered one of the subject's first, and still few, historical investigators. Observations by Nick Kollerstrom on the "astrologico-dynastic" (65) nature of Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's new moons — made in the form of notes to excerpts taken from Mario Biagioli's book, Galileo Courtier — make clear that Biagioli's interpretation of the "awesomely successful" (42) dedication of the new moons to Cosimo II can be better understood by reading it partly in terms of the Grand Duke's birth horoscope. The ambiguity between what Kollerstrom describes as "a clever ploy" (3) and what Biagioli refers to as an "astrological logic" in which, "as a practicing astrologer . . . he totally believed" (65), is made further obscure, however, by Germana Ernst's account of Tommaso Campanella's disapproval of Galileo's astrological "incredulity" (29). In addition to speculating on what Galileo believed about astrology, the contributors consider the various techniques Galileo employed. Vague observations, such as Bernadette Brady's that Galileo "did not follow any one technique, preferring to use a combination" (125), are not often clarified, though this admittedly has more to do with the sparse amount of scholarship on the subject than anything else. Indeed, one of the implied insights of the work is that Galileo's astrology was not his alone to possess, and as such that the problems faced by scholars dealing with the topic involve contextual information that has yet to be yielded. It is thus apparent that Galileo's sources of influence, the available ways in which astrology was practiced, and the responses he anticipated from intended audiences must be considered the responsibility of scholars of the early modern era more generally, as astrology reclaims its long-neglected intellectual and institutional importance in the period.

In capturing much of what has been written on the subject, Galileo's Astrology [End Page 223] is a helpful historiographical reference and a stark reminder of how sparse the secondary literature actually is. References to astrologically inclined contemporaries are few and tellingly brief: the names of Johannes Kepler and Jean Baptiste Morin, two additional examples of how early modern astrology has been overlooked in historical scholarship, surface several times without showing how "the question of Galileo's technical astrology" (5) might have been any different from contemporary notions. As...


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