Whether Galileo took the remedy we do not know, but at all events he escaped the plague.
[PLATE: THE VILLA ARCETRI. Galileo's residence, where Milton visited him.]
From Galileo's new home in Florence the telescope was again directed to the skies, and again did astounding discoveries reward the atronomer's labours. The great success which he had met with in studying Jupiter naturally led Galileo to look at Saturn. Here he saw a spectacle which was sufficiently amazing, though he failed to interpret it accurately. It was quite manifest that Saturn did not exhibit a simple circular disc like Jupiter, or like Mars. It seemed to Galileo as if the planet consisted of three bodies, a large globe in the centre, and a smaller one on each side. The enigmatical nature of the discovery led Galileo to announce it in an enigmatical manner. He published a string of letters which, when duly transposed, made up a sentence which affirmed that the planet Saturn was threefold. Of course we now know that this remarkable appearance of the planet was due to the two projecting portions of the ring. With the feeble power of Galileo's telescope, these seemed merely like small globes or appendages to the large central body.
The last Of Galileo's great astronomical discoveries related to the libration of the moon. I think that the detection of this phenomenon shows his acuteness of observation more remarkably than does any one of his other achievements with the telescope. It is well known that the moon constantly keeps the same face turned towards the earth. When, however, careful measurements have been made with regard to the spots and marks on the lunar surface, it is found that there is a slight periodic variation which permits us to see now a little to the east or to the west, now a little to the north or to the south of the average lunar disc.
But the circumstances which make the career of Galileo so especially interesting from the biographer's point of view, are hardly so much the triumphs that he won as the sufferings that he endured. The sufferings and the triumphs were, however, closely connected, and it is fitting that we should give due consideration to what was perhaps the greatest drama in the history of science.
On the appearance of the immortal work of Copernicus, in which it was taught that the earth rotated on its axis, and that the earth, like the other planets, revolved round the sun, orthodoxy stood aghast. The Holy Roman Church submitted this treatise, which bore the name "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium," to the Congregation of the Index. After due examination it was condemned as heretical in 1615. Galileo was suspected, on no doubt excellent grounds, of entertaining the objectionable views of Copernicus. He was accordingly privately summoned before Cardinal Bellarmine on 26th February 1616, and duly admonished that he was on no account to teach or to defend the obnoxious doctrines. Galileo was much distressed by this intimation. He felt it a serious matter to be deprived of the privilege of discoursing with his friends about the Copernican system, and of instructing his disciples in the principles of the great theory of whose truth he was perfectly convinced. It pained him, however, still more to think, devout Catholic as he was, that such suspicions of his fervent allegiance to his Church should ever have existed, as were implied by the words and monitions of Cardinal Bellarmine.
In 1616, Galileo had an interview with Pope Paul V., who received the great astronomer very graciously, and walked up and down with him in conversation for three-quarters of an hour. Galileo complained to his Holiness of the attempts made by his enemies to embarrass him with the authorities of the Church, but the Pope bade him be comforted. His Holiness had himself no doubts of Galileo's orthodoxy, and he assured him that the Congregation of the Index should give Galileo no further trouble so long as Paul V. was in the chair of St. Peter.
On the death of Paul V. in 1623, Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope, as Urban VIII. This new Pope, while a cardinal, had been an intimate friend of Galileo's, and had indeed written Latin verses in praise of the great astronomer and his discoveries. It was therefore not unnatural for Galileo to think that the time had arrived when, with the use of due circumspection, he might continue his studies and his writings, without fear of incurring the displeasure of the Church. Indeed, in 1624, one of Galileo's friends writing from Rome, urges Galileo to visit the city again, and added that--
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