Letter correspondence between Galileo-Kepler (1597)

I’ve found this great correspondence between Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, two astounding figures in the history of science that pushed forward the scientific revolution in a time when the dead hand of the Church was all too prevalent. This was the first time in writing that Galileo expressed his enthusiastic support of the Copernican idea that the Earth moves around the Sun.

Galileo to Kepler

….Like you, I accepted the Copernican position several years ago and discovered from thence the causes of many natural effects which are doubtless inexplicable by the current theories.  I have written up many of my reasons and refutations on the subject, but I have not dared until now to bring them into the open, being warned by the fortunes of Copernicus himself, our master, who procured immortal fame among a few but stepped down among the great crowd (for the foolish are numerous), only to be derided and dishonored.  I would dare publish my thoughts if there were many like you; but, since there are not, I shall forebear….

Kepler to Galileo

….I could only have wished that you, who have so profound an insight, would choose another way.  You advise us, by your personal example, and in discreetly veiled fashion, to retreat before the general ignorance and not to expose ourselves or heedlessly to oppose the violent attacks of the mob of scholars (and in this you follow Plato and Pythagoras, our true perceptors).  But after a tremendous task has been begun in our time, first by Copernicus and then by many very learned mathematicians, and when the assertion that the Earth moves can no longer be considered something new, would it not be much better to pull the wagon to its goal by our joint efforts, now that we have got it under way, and gradually, with powerful voices, to shout down the common herd, which really does not weigh the arguments very carefully?  Thus perhaps by cleverness we may bring it to a knowledge of the truth.  With your arguments you would at the same time help your comrades who endure so many unjust judgments, for they would obtain either comfort from your agreement or protection from your influential position.  It is not only your Italians who cannot believe that they move if they do not feel it, but we in Germany also do not by any means endear ourselves with this idea.  Yet there are ways by which we protect ourselves against these difficulties….

Be of good cheer, Galileo, and come out publicly.  If I judge correctly, there are only a few of the distinguished mathematicians of Europe who would part company with us, so great is the power of truth.  If Italy seems a less favorable place for your publication, and if you look for difficulties there, perhaps Germany will allow us this freedom.

Source: Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo (1955).
Source: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/letterkepler.html



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