On this day in 1564 the Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei was born. Galileo has been called the Father of Modern Science although during his lifetime his main view on a heliocentric universe was disallowed by the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which stuck to the literal biblical interpretation of the earth as the centre of the universe.
Galileo was only repeating the views of Copernicus from over one hundred years earlier, but nevertheless the inquisition in Rome decided that he must: “abstain completely from teaching or defending this doctrine and opinion or from discussing it.” Furthermore, over a decade later, he was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life.
Here are some lines by the metaphysical poet John Donne who was well aware of the new science that Copernicus and Galileo were introducing:
The new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost and the earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
Have not all souls thought
For many ages that our body is wrought
Of air and fire and other elements?
And now they think of new ingredients;
And one soul thinks one, and another way
Another thinks, and ’tis an even lay.
Today I remember that that there are still huge questions to which we have no answer and when I look at the stars I remind myself that I am just a very small part of a vast joined-up universe.