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Galileo Galilei As Astronomer (and Astrologer)
From Dr Z (aka Anthony Peña, JD)

The Fickle Finger of Fate
Galileo (1564-1642) - an astronomer, physicist, and (yes) astrologer - initially established his expertise in the study of terrestrial dynamics (i.e. the development of pendulums). Galileo's beginning experiments with the pendulum, and its movement, later spurred on the very important mid 17th century development of the pendulum clock timepiece by Hautefeville.

If Galileo had chosen to stay within his primary field of scientific endeavor, he would have likely gotten lost among a larger field of inventors of his time and age. Fortunately for us, he didn't...

The Telescope That Ended Up Changing It All
It was much by "chance" that Galileo ended up fathering a brand new branch of astronomy, laying the building blocks of modern astronomy, and changing his own life and destiny forever.

Galileo has often been credited with inventing the telescope. However, this is not exactly correct. In 1609 Galileo happened to hear of a Dutch spectacle-maker, Hans Lipperhey, who had combined a pair of lenses in order to magnify distant objects. Galileo then took the idea and ran with it. He then created his own telescope for purposes of gazing at the heavens and stars. This fortuitous event was to irretrievably change the course of Galileo's life and destiny forever.

A Dip Into Hot Water
The following year, in 1610, Galileo published a small book called Message from the Stars. In his book he reported having seen mountains on the Moon, four small bodies (moons) orbiting Jupiter, and that the Milky Way was actually made up of tiny stars.

According to Nicolas Campion (“Introduction: Galileo's Life and Work” Culture and Cosmos Vol 7 No 1) Galileo named the new moons of Jupiter the “Medicean stars” in tribute to the influential Medici family. According to Campion, Galileo was rewarded later that year when Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, "appointed him court mathematician and philosopher – that is, astrologer.”

It was Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's four moons (now known as Galileo's moons: Callisto, Europa, Io, and Ganymede) that was to slowly begin his eventual dip into "hot water" with the powerful Roman Catholic church.

Later, in 1613, Galileo discovered via his telescope that the planet Venus showed phases like those of the Moon. Therefore, Venus orbited the Sun, rather than orbiting the Earth.

The Church steadfastly held to the "geocentric view" of the universe and that the Earth was the stationary center of the universe. Thus, any and all, objects in the heavens must encircle the Earth.

In truth, astronomer (and astrologer) Nicolaus Copernicus (February 19, 1473 – May 24, 1543 Old Style) had been the first to propose a heliocentric cosmology that removed the Earth from being the center of the universe. Copernicus' heliocentric view of the universe was published in his book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in the year of his death, 1543.

Galileo Denounced in 1615
However, what Galileo had directly observed in the heavens by means of his famous (or better yet, infamous) telescope rocked the foundations of Aristotle's, Ptolemy's, and the Roman Catholic Church's official geocentric view of the universe.

Galileo was first denounced by the Roman Catholic Church in 1615. Fortunately, he was personally popular with the most powerful Church officials of his day. (It always helps to have friends in high places.) After wisely choosing to denounce his beliefs in a Copernican heliocentric universe, and promising that he would never again teach it, Galileo was left alone by the Church for many years.

He Just Couldn't Help Himself
However... almost twenty years later, in 1632, with the publication of yet another book entitled Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems : Ptolemaic and Copernican, Galileo forced the reluctant Church to once again take action.

In 1633 Galileo went before the Church one final time. At his papal trial, Church officials refused to even look through Galileo's telescope. They knew full well that the Devil was capable of making anything illusory and deceptive appear in Galileo's telescope.

However, one more time, Church officials offered Galileo an option for the avoidance of being burned at the stake for church heresy. Once again denouncing his beliefs in a Copernican heliocentric universe, Galileo chose being imprisoned in his own home (and later in homes of his friends) for the remainder of his life. Galileo died January the 8th 1642.

Truth Stranger Than Fiction?

  • On March 12, 1737, Galileo's remains were transferred from the chapel of Saints Cosmas and Damian to the church of Santa Croce, where a more fitting burial place had been prepared. During this transfer, a devotee cut off Galileo's middle finger of his right hand. Today, Galileo's finger can be found on display in the Florence Institute and Museum of the History of Science.

  • In 1979 Pope John Paul II expressed a desire that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences conduct an in-depth study of the church's case against Galileo. A commission of scholars convened, and they presented their report to the Pope on October 31, 1992. The Roman Catholic Church then finally removed the verdict of heresy against Galileo.

Birth data:
February 16, 1564 (Old Style)
4:09 pm LMT
Pisa, Italy
(There has been more than a little confusion over whether Galileo was born on the 15th or 16th Old Style, but the 16th appears to be correct. Hey! Even Wikipedia that gives the 15th can't always be right. For more on this see Nick Kollerstrom's excellent article linked below.)

Leo Ascendant, Taurus Midheaven, Pisces Sun, and Taurus Moon

Elsewhere on the Web

Galileo's Astrology article by Nick Kollerstrom

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