Moon, as seen by Galileo

Moon, as seen by Galileo

In 1610 Galileo published the astonishing report of his first telescope observations, containing detailed drawings of the moon surface and his discovery of four “planets” orbiting around Jupiter.

Almost three years later he wrote about even more precise observations, including more than a hundred drawings of their relative daily positions. This fantastic animation depicts the relative motions in detail.

The notion that Galileo got in trouble with the Vatican because he supported the Copernican system is an oversimplification. The heliocentrical model wasn’t considered heretic anymore per se; but Galileo used the Copernical model to draw theological conclusions conflicting with Rome’s teachings. In a letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, he actually interpreted a problematical biblical passage in the book of Joshua to conform to a heliocentric cosmology. He was meddling with theology, a space reserved for and guarded by the Vatican.

Moon, as seen by you

Moon, as seen by you

Galileo’s problem was more about the way the approached the situation: arrogant, he collected enemies during his debates with Church scientists, despite having some friends in important places. The most important of them was Maffeo Barberini, former Bishop of Spoleto, who later became Pope Urban VIII.

In 1624, Galileo was assured by Pope Urban VIII that he could write about Copernican theory as long as he treated it as a mathematical proposition. He was fond of Galileo’s wit, but at the same time had to protect Church’s interests.

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

With the printing of the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was called to Rome in 1633 to face the Inquisition again. It seems the Pope never forgave Galileo for putting the argument of God’s omnipotence (the argument he himelf had put to Galileo in 1623) in the mouth of Simplicio, the staunch Aristotelian whose arguments had been systematically destroyed in the previous 400 pages.

Galileo was found guilty of heresy for his Dialogue, and was sent to his home near Florence where he was to be under house arrest for the remainder of his life. In 1638, the Inquisition allowed Galileo to move to his home in Florence, so that he could be closer to his doctors. By that time he was totally blind. In 1642, Galileo died at his home outside Florence.

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Johannes Hevelius observing with one of his telescopes

Johannes Hevelius observing with one of his telescopes

It has been assumed that the first true telescope was invented in late 1608 by three Dutch spectacle-makers, Lippershey, Janssen and Metius, each not knowing about the other’s progress. In the following years, Galileu in Italy greatly improved the telescope, although he claims never having seen the original design. Galileu could, thus, have re-invented the telescope independently.

But new evidence suggests the telescope might have been invented earlier, in Spain, perhaps ten years before the Dutch patents.

The idea that all three Dutch invented the telescope almost at the same time is controversial. Lipperhey submitted his application for a patent on October 2nd, 1608. On October 14th there were reports of Janssen demonstrating his own invention. And on October 17th, Metius put in an independent patent for a telescope.

“Throughout history, there have been cases of people inventing things all at the same time. But generally, there’s a good reason for that. It’s because someone had put down a challenge. In 1608, no one had presented a challenge – there’s no perception of a challenge. It doesn’t make any sense. Three people did not invent the telescope in the space of two weeks.”

The new evidence started as a reference on the internet to a research paper published in 1959 by amateur historian Simon de Guilleuma, who investigated a reference in an Italian book published in 1609. In the book, it is described a meeting with an aged spectacle maker called Juan Roget in Gerona, Spain, who is then described as the real inventor of the telescope.

Historians have considered Juan Roget too marginal to pursue.

But Guilleuma discovered official listings for many of Roget’s relatives in Barcelona, many of whom were also spectacle-makers. They matched descriptions, places and dates detailed in the Italian book.

According to Guilleuma, inventory records from Barcelona indicate that in April 10th 1593 a “Don Pedro de Carolona” died and passed down to his wife “a long eyeglass decorated with brass”. Another inventory record from 1608 refers to an “eyeglass/telescope for long sight”.