Tech UPTechnologyGalileo, vain and professional argumentative

Galileo, vain and professional argumentative

We all know Galileo for the famous phrase he uttered, so bajini , when the Church condemned him for defending that the Earth was not at the center of the universe: “eppur si muove”, and yet it moves. We also all know that this famous phrase never left his lips .

Galileo has been very well treated by history. Although Copernicus was the first to formulate the heliocentric theory and although years later it was Johannes Kepler who really discovered how the planets move around the Sun, the name that emerges from the depths of our memory when speaking of this great revolution is that of Galileo Galilei . The fact is that his fame came, not because he enunciated or demonstrated the heliocentric idea, but because he was forced to abjure his ideas when faced with the machine of material and ideological power that was the Vatican.

The young Galileo, nicknamed the quarrelsome

And all because Galileo was a professional arguer. Already in his student days in Pisa he was called the quarrelsome , a ‘quality’ that did not abandon him throughout his life. In 1589, when he was appointed professor at the University of Pisa, he was told that the members of the faculty should wear the academic robe. Galileo, deeply offended by such regulations being imposed on him, campaigned vigorously against this requirement through a poetic satire in which he spoke out against the toga and in favor of nudity.

At the end of his three-year contract in Pisa, the University of Padua took him over with a checkbook. In his classes he taught the geocentric astronomy of the Greek Ptolemy, something of which he was not very convinced. In 1597 he wrote a letter to Kepler where he said: “I have not dared to publish my ideas, for fear of meeting the same fate as our teacher Copernicus, who, having won immortal fame among a few, among the great majority only seems to deserve heckling.” and derision. I would dare to make my speculations known if there were many people like you; but, since there are none, I am horrified to do something like that”.

Kepler, after reading those lines, wrote him a letter scolding him : “In your intelligent and secret ways you underline, by your example, the warning that one must retreat before the ignorance of the world… Have faith Galileo, and go ahead!”

Saddest of all, revealing the tremendously human nature of the sages, is that for twelve years following this exhortation Galileo completely ignored Kepler . Of this Albert Einstein would come to say: “It has always hurt me to think that Galileo did not recognize the work of Kepler”. All motivated, most likely, by the Pisan’s dreams of glory.

His greatest enemy, Kepler

Galileo longed to be recognized as one of the most extraordinary scientists. When he was a professor in Padua, back in 1609, he had an excellent reputation as a scientist. His desire for prestige was fulfilled with the help of a new instrument devised in Holland, the telescope, which he heard about in Venice.

Galileo built one for himself and pointed it at the sky, discovering the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the rocky nature of the Moon, and a multitude of stars never seen before in the sky. The book in which he described his observations, The Sidereal Messenger , was a best-seller that even reached as far away as China.

But in his fight for fame he had an enemy : Kepler. He was considered the best astronomer in the world and Galileo could not bear that. Kepler seasoned his writings with a certain mystical whiff that served as an excuse for Galileo to criticize him sarcastically. Kepler begged him not to use his usual biting tone with him; Galileo did not deign to reply.

But the most unfortunate event occurred with a telescope. Kepler’s enthusiastic criticism of The Star Messenger helped scientists at the time accept the telescope for what it really was and not as an instrument that produced optical illusions. Kepler, who understood the optical principles of the telescope much better than Galileo, asked him to please send him one or at least a quality lens, since he could not get one in Prague. Galileo ignored his request . Perhaps he feared what an astronomer of Kepler’s caliber might do with a telescope in his hands. In addition, he had other plans that required his full attention: to join the Medici court in Tuscany.

Glory, money and vanity. Temptations that are difficult to escape.


Reston, J. (2018) Galileo: a life, ‎ Beard Group, Inc

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