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Philosophers who refused to look through Galileo's Telescope
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Galileo Galilei, like Kepler, was a mathematicus, (a term used for a mathemetician, astrologer and astronomer). Galileo complained to Kepler that some of the philosophers who opposed his discoveries had refused even to look through his telescope.
"My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth."
Galileo Galilei
[Bethune, John Elliot Drinkwater (1830). The life of Galileo Galilei, with illustrations of the advancement of experimental philosophy. [London.]

Who were the most likely philosophers?

  1. Cesare Cremonini, [1550 - 1631] was a friend and rival of his colleague Galileo Galilei at the University of Padua, Italy. When Galileo announced he had seen mountains on the Moon, Cremonini and others denounced the claim but refused to look through Galileo's telescope. The evidence would have refuted Aristotle's theory that the Moon was a perfect sphere and made his position as Professor of Aristotelian Philosophy at the University, untenable.

    Cremonini was later quoted as saying "I do not wish to approve of claims about which I do not have any knowledge, and about things which I have not seen ... and then to observe through those glasses gives me a headache. Enough! I do not want to hear anything more about this."
    [Letter from Paolo Gualdo to Galileo Opere, II, 564]

    I would understand his concern for his eyes when it comes to the observation of Sunspots, but not with the Moon. Either way, it sounds like an excuse to avoid seeing the evidence that would challenge his world-view.

  2. Giulio Libri, was Professor of Aristotelian Philosophy at Pisa and an opponent of Galileo. After he died, Galileo commented wryly that Libri "never having wanted to see [the Medicean Stars (Moons of Jupiter)] on Earth, perhaps he'll see them on the way to heaven?"
    [Galileo's letter to Welser of 17 Dec 1610, in Opere, XI, 14]
This is story is illustrative of the entrenched prejudice and fear that Galileo faced from the leading intellectuals of the day and the Church.
Parinting of Galeleo Gelilei 185
The Riformati Doge of Venice was prepared to view through the telescope. Fresco by Giuseppe Bertini in 1858, Galileo Galilei presents the telescope to the Doge Leonardo Donati ~ 1609-1612, View full size from Biumo di Varese, Villa Ponti, Hall of Honor, Italy.

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Robert Currey
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