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Galileo Antichrist: A Biography

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A giant of science, Galileo's achievements allow him to be bracketed alongside Newton, Einstein, and Darwin. A devout Roman Catholic, his genius threw him into conflict with his Church and his refusal to back down turned him into a martyr for many. Here, bestselling author Michael White gets to grips with the man and the world he challenged. Both biography and exploration A giant of science, Galileo's achievements allow him to be bracketed alongside Newton, Einstein, and Darwin. A devout Roman Catholic, his genius threw him into conflict with his Church and his refusal to back down turned him into a martyr for many. Here, bestselling author Michael White gets to grips with the man and the world he challenged. Both biography and exploration of a time when religious and scientific understanding had become deeply and dangerously intertwined, Galileo Antichrist traces the path that led to its subject's denunciation as a heretic. While it is perfectly possible to view Galileo's collision with the Catholic Church as near inevitable, White draws on evidence recently discovered in the Vatican archives to question the accepted reasons for his trial. In doing so he shows why Galileo became such a contentious figure that, centuries later, the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, felt driven to declare the process against the father of science as “reasonable and just.”


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A giant of science, Galileo's achievements allow him to be bracketed alongside Newton, Einstein, and Darwin. A devout Roman Catholic, his genius threw him into conflict with his Church and his refusal to back down turned him into a martyr for many. Here, bestselling author Michael White gets to grips with the man and the world he challenged. Both biography and exploration A giant of science, Galileo's achievements allow him to be bracketed alongside Newton, Einstein, and Darwin. A devout Roman Catholic, his genius threw him into conflict with his Church and his refusal to back down turned him into a martyr for many. Here, bestselling author Michael White gets to grips with the man and the world he challenged. Both biography and exploration of a time when religious and scientific understanding had become deeply and dangerously intertwined, Galileo Antichrist traces the path that led to its subject's denunciation as a heretic. While it is perfectly possible to view Galileo's collision with the Catholic Church as near inevitable, White draws on evidence recently discovered in the Vatican archives to question the accepted reasons for his trial. In doing so he shows why Galileo became such a contentious figure that, centuries later, the Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, felt driven to declare the process against the father of science as “reasonable and just.”

30 review for Galileo Antichrist: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elisa

    Una de las mejores biografías que he leído. Al autor claramente le fascina Galileo pero tampoco ignora sus defectos. Da puntos de referencia históricos que ayudan a localizar en el tiempo y el espacio a Galileo (que si Miguel Ángel acababa de morir o que si Shakespeare acababa de publicar una obra). Los primeros capítulos son un compendio breve de los acontecimientos más importantes antes del nacimiento de Galileo y ayudan también a no perder de vista el contexto en el que vivió Galileo. Lo más Una de las mejores biografías que he leído. Al autor claramente le fascina Galileo pero tampoco ignora sus defectos. Da puntos de referencia históricos que ayudan a localizar en el tiempo y el espacio a Galileo (que si Miguel Ángel acababa de morir o que si Shakespeare acababa de publicar una obra). Los primeros capítulos son un compendio breve de los acontecimientos más importantes antes del nacimiento de Galileo y ayudan también a no perder de vista el contexto en el que vivió Galileo. Lo más importante de este libro, creo, es la revelación de que Galileo no fue silenciado por la Iglesia por defender una idea que ya había sido expuesta por Nicolás Copérnico (la teoría heliocéntrica) sino más bien por sus tratados sobre el átomo, que contradicen la transustanciación en la Eucaristía (la creencia de que la oblea y el vino son literalmente la carne y la sangre de Cristo), un punto importantísimo que separa a los católicos de los protestantes y justo en esa época las guerras religiosas alrededor de estas dos creencias estaba en su apogeo. Galileo fue un gigante que vivió en una era de gigantes y su vida y obra son fascinantes.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Michael White used to be a Thompson Twin, apparently. This has nothing to do with the book, of course, but when I first read that, I hoped he was the lead singer. He wasn't. That's Tom Bailey. But I really enjoyed thinking of that guy sitting down to write a pseudo-intellectual biography of Galileo. Perhaps "pseudo-intellectual" is too harsh. But what I mean by that is "accessible" and "readable." A popular history. I thoroughly enjoyed the first several chapters, which set up the world Galileo li Michael White used to be a Thompson Twin, apparently. This has nothing to do with the book, of course, but when I first read that, I hoped he was the lead singer. He wasn't. That's Tom Bailey. But I really enjoyed thinking of that guy sitting down to write a pseudo-intellectual biography of Galileo. Perhaps "pseudo-intellectual" is too harsh. But what I mean by that is "accessible" and "readable." A popular history. I thoroughly enjoyed the first several chapters, which set up the world Galileo lived in. White describes the era as a time when, "a small group of well-heeled Europeans seeking novelty, knowledge, and (it must not be ignored) coveting prestige and social kudos, actively sought out the literary and philosophical treasures of the ancients." These well-heeled seekers had a thirst for knowledge that made them early humanists. They were also Catholic and deeply religious. But they "held the view that an alternative thought system such as humanism could offer new ways to understand the human condition." Not so, said the Catholic church. Thought and logic and faith were poor bedfellows back then. Still are, frankly. The Renaissance, and the Reformation, was made possible by Gutenberg's printing press, which allowed ideas to be spread at a more rapid, egalitarian way than was possible previously. The Catholic church was caught sleeping and found themselves fighting a battle that wasn't previously necessary; convincing an ever-growing educated populace to continue to view the declarations of the Catholic church as the only truth. But the funny thing about that truth is that, scientifically, it relied on Aristotle, a heathen Greek. His ideas were "...placed above all others by future generations and his philosophies were hijacked by theologians for their own ends. Dogma turned to absolutism, and his teachings were passed on virtually unquestioned. This led astray later thinkers and pushed science towards a dead end." So any attack on Aristotle became an attack on Christianity. And Aristotle was wrong about a lot. Aristotle's Unmoved Mover becomes God. Aristotle's four elements theory of matter became sacrosanct, negating theories like atoms or even the idea that what something tastes like or looks like is very open to human interpretation. This was a time when you just believed because someone told you to believe. The idea of coming up with a new idea, then testing out that idea with experiments designed to prove, or disprove, the theory was foreign. And, if that idea ran counter to the truth the Catholic church espoused, heretical. This is where Galileo ran into trouble. Which is well-known. But White also trots forth the conspiracy theory that the thesis for which Galileo was punished, his book presenting the Copernican model of of the universe, with the sun in the center, was NOT the real reason he was convicted of heresy. The true reason was science he espoused which stood in direct opposition to the Catholic church's dogma about transubstantiation. Transubstantiation. I didn't lead a completely sheltered childhood, but the first memory I have of realizing the eccentricity of the concept was as a young adult, when I read Maupin's Tales of the City, wherein a murderer confuses transubstantiation with cannibalism. Galileo didn't go that far, of course. But he had the temerity to question Aristotle's four element substance theory of matter. Which led to questioning transubstantiation. You see, transubstantiation depended on Aristotelian substance theory, which states that when we strip away the accidents of a particular thing we are left with its substance, which cannot be observed. Thomas Aquinas used this theory to support the idea that the accidents of our senses' perception of the bread and wine don't change, but God changes the substance of those things to be the actual body and blood of Christ. After the elements are blessed by the priest, they cease being bread and wine, transforming into flesh and blood. The substance has been transformed (hence the term transubstantiation) but the accidents of the bread and wine remain as they were. Those accidents include all the ways our senses (touch, taste, etc.) interact with the elements. In The Assayer, Galileo dipped his toe into what looks like early atomic theory, which would make Aristotle's theories invalid. According to White, this is the real problem the church had with Galileo. Not Copernicus. But transubstantiation. He doesn't make his argument very thoroughly. And the book suffers for it. But it sure wet my whistle to read more about this. And, to me, that's the mark of a good book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Antenna

    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo was a man of remarkable intelligence with the misfortune to be born at a time of intense religious bigotry. Nowadays he would no doubt be a media celebrity explaining and debating his many theories, a multi-millionaire through the sale of his inventions and a Nobel prize-winner to boot. Instead, in the understandable desire to avoid life imprisonment "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo was a man of remarkable intelligence with the misfortune to be born at a time of intense religious bigotry. Nowadays he would no doubt be a media celebrity explaining and debating his many theories, a multi-millionaire through the sale of his inventions and a Nobel prize-winner to boot. Instead, in the understandable desire to avoid life imprisonment in his old age and possible burning as a heretic, he was browbeaten into a humiliating refutation of his support for the theory of Copernicus that the earth rotates in orbit round a static sun. His scientific approach, based on observable evidence and mathematical calculations foundered on the Catholic Church’s arbitrary insistence on the immutable truth of Aristotle’s flawed deductive reasoning that an all-powerful God kept the sun and planets orbiting round the earth. The supreme irony is that Aristotle was a “heathen” Greek. Another is that Galileo might have avoided punishment if he had been prepared to escape to a Protestant country like the Netherlands or England, even stayed in the more tolerant city of Venice rather than throw in his lot with the Medicis of Florence, who were less prepared to stand up to the Pope. In this fascinating account, which makes science comprehensible even to a reader with very limited prior knowledge, the author has a tendency to try to capture our imagination with a good deal of speculation. The most significant example of this is his support for a recent theory that the heresy for which Galileo was convicted was in fact a cynical distraction from the issue which really concerned the somewhat unstable Pope Urban VIII and the fanatical Jesuits at the heart of the Vatican. This was that Galileo’s nascent views on the existence and nature of atoms threatened the belief at the heart of Catholic doctrine, which sets it apart from Protestantism: namely, that in Holy Communion, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ, whilst maintaining their original physical appearance. Although widely admired in his lifetime, Galileo was no saint. As a young man, he was known as “the Wrangler” for his argumentative approach. Never backward in asserting his intelligence and his contempt for those of lesser intellect who contradicted him, he accumulated a number of enemies who were eager to play a part in his ultimate downfall. To gain a teaching post at the University of Padua, he was prepared to give a lecture estimating the dimensions of Lucifer, a topic he must surely have regarded as somewhat ludicrous. His curiosity ranged widely to include radical thinking on the behaviour of pendulums, the speed of falling objects, even the cause of the tides, where his thinking was in error. He showed entrepreneurial skills in commercialising his invention of the mathematical compass, a widely used tool for making calculations, driven by the need to support an extended family including his feckless brother with a growing brood of children. Despite being an excellent communicator, Galileo detested teaching: he out-manoeuvred a rival to corner the market in another invention with practical application, one of the first telescopes, and used it as a means of gaining a plum post in the Florence of the Medicis, one of the conditions being that he could give up teaching. The telescope enabled him to view the moons orbiting Jupiter and the “crackled and wavy” surface of a moon which the Church insisted was a perfect, smooth sphere: Galileo’s critics argued that, if it was covered in mountains and craters, it must be contained in a translucent layer which would make it the “right” shape. It is not surprising that Galileo presented his arguments in debates in which foolish arguments were demolished, but when the “fall guy” voicing views held by the Pope was named Simplicio, based on the Italian word for simpleton, he was clearly sailing to close to the wind. Galileo’s fateful trial is covered in some detail in translations of a tortuous procedure involving legalistic language and specious theological argument which despite being somewhat dry has the power to enrage the modern reader over the injustice of the situation. Yet with successors like Newton to build on his work, the genie could never be returned to the bottle.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Ramm

    Very recent discoveries of documents in the Vatican archives indicate that possibly tit was more than his belief in the Copernican model of the solar system which landed Galileo Galilei on the far side of the moon, religiously speaking. Several pages of transcripts of the actual interrogation of Galileo by The Inquisition are perhaps the highlight. You could certainly see that The Renaissance is not the same era as The Enlightenment. And to think this sort of stuff could still happen, 30 years a Very recent discoveries of documents in the Vatican archives indicate that possibly tit was more than his belief in the Copernican model of the solar system which landed Galileo Galilei on the far side of the moon, religiously speaking. Several pages of transcripts of the actual interrogation of Galileo by The Inquisition are perhaps the highlight. You could certainly see that The Renaissance is not the same era as The Enlightenment. And to think this sort of stuff could still happen, 30 years after Shakespeare had written Hamlet. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Pope Urban, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Arooj

    The ability of thinking differently must be accompanied by enough courage to stand for one's different yet righteous stance.The detailed account of Galileo 's life and trial in his later age tells the reader the fear of sheer suffering and notoriety forced the genious mind to back off from his ingenious discoveries. This surrender on the part of Galileo is not the proof if lack of courage but the result ill-treatment of dumb headed so called religious minds. The ability of thinking differently must be accompanied by enough courage to stand for one's different yet righteous stance.The detailed account of Galileo 's life and trial in his later age tells the reader the fear of sheer suffering and notoriety forced the genious mind to back off from his ingenious discoveries. This surrender on the part of Galileo is not the proof if lack of courage but the result ill-treatment of dumb headed so called religious minds.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Apple

    The only complaint I have is the small font, but otherwise, I love this book! Though the subject lived many many years ago, the narration is wonderfully modern and easy to follow. I believe it provides a fair picture of Galileo Galilei as well as the other people who were involved in his life and in the inquisition and injunction against him. Wish all biographies were this hard to put down.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wilson

    A rollicking good read, and a grand insight into the battle between Galileo and the Catholic Church - with lots of relevant and fascinating background on how it arose, and why it was so important at the time. I also very much enjoyed getting a much deeper understanding of Galileo the man, the age in which lived and his other travails (personal and otherwise) - made him seem very human.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mariana

    Interessante, informativo, mas não apaixonante. A rejeição do autor a certas partes da doutrina católica incomoda às vezes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Erin Kelly

    This is one of the most well-written biographies I've ever read. This is one of the most well-written biographies I've ever read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Galileo! :3

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  12. 4 out of 5

    Garth Slaney

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paco Serrano

  14. 5 out of 5

    László Gerecsei

  15. 4 out of 5

    Simon Hawkins

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marcos

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Cheis

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ewen Blair

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eva Ulland

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alberto

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Ascencio

  23. 4 out of 5

    Murnau’s stolen skull

  24. 4 out of 5

    Massimiliano Codacci

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Oliveira

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mariam

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alejandro Llanos

  28. 5 out of 5

    Paulina Madero

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vulpes Vulpes

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

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