Italian professors of the history of science Bucciantini (Univ. of Siena), Camerota (Univ. of Cagliari) and Giudice (Univ. of Bergamo) explore the geographical dispersion of the telescope and the radical change its “new sky” produced.
The first mention of a telescope was in 1608, when a spectacle maker presented a tube with a convex lens at one end and a concave lens at the other. So great was the interest that before a patent could be granted, spyglasses were re-created all across Europe. The best, of course, was Galileo’s, and he elaborated on his ideas in his short book, Sidereus nuncius, which radically changed the world of science and religion, introducing a new order of the heavens. Galileo noted his discovery of the lunar mountains, the true cause of the Milky Way and the four satellites of Jupiter. More importantly, he stated that Venus orbited the sun, confirming Copernicus’ theory. This innovative look at some of the most important few years in scientific history is consistently illuminating, as the authors show the connections among the enlightened, scientifically minded courts of Europe. Their research is vast and their findings, remarkable; they discovered new letters and little notes Galileo made on the backs of envelopes, often part of shopping lists. The communication among Brussels, Prague, London, Venice and Madrid that took place in the first year shows the importance of the findings generated by the simple instrument. By 1611, the Collegio Romano had approved Galileo’s work, except for heliocentricity; they still claimed that while other planets revolved around the sun, Earth was central and immobile. Contemporary works on Sidereus nuncius cited by the authors prove its broad effect.
This erudite work will take some effort to follow and understand, but it’s well-worth the effort for a glimpse into the world-shattering effect of the birth of the telescope.