Monday, January 3, 2011

Galileo on trial: four centuries ago, an Italian scientist dared toclaim that Earth revolved around the sun--at the risk of hislife.(World History Play).

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Narrator A: During the Middle Ages (400s-1400s A.D.), the center of life and learning for most of Europe was the Roman Catholic Church. Challenging the doctrines, or official teachings, of the church and its leader, the Pope, was a very risky business. A person branded a heretic could be imprisoned, exiled, or even executed.

But in the 1300s, a flowering of learning and creativity called the Renaissance started in Italy. For the first time, people openly questioned the church's authority. This questioning would continue with Galileo Galilei, a leader of a new era of experimentation called the Scientific Revolution. He challenged a central teaching of the church--that the sun and the planets revolve around Earth. Speaking this truth put him on a collision course with the church's most powerful leaders.

SCENE ONE

Narrator B: Born in the city of Pisa in 1564, Galileo is a man of tireless curiosity. He is a professor at the University of Padua in 1609 when he builds a telescope and begins recording his observations of the planets and stars. One evening in 1610, a student visits him.

Galileo Galilei: Vasco, come here and look through my telescope.

Vasco Conti: That's amazing, sir. I recognize the planet Jupiter--but what do I see near it?

Galileo: Its moons. They orbit Jupiter like our moon orbits Earth.

Conti: I can see so many more stars through this device!

Galileo: It makes the heavens clearer than ever before.

Narrator C: But some professors don't approve of Galileo's studies. One comes to see him.

Bernardo Castino: Professor, we're disturbed that your so-called discoveries may be supporting the dangerous views of Copernicus.

Narrator D: Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who, a century before, had said that Earth revolved around the sun--contrary to the church's teachings.

Galileo: I seek only to learn how our universe works. Come, look through my telescope!

Castino: I will not! God made Earth to be His human home and the sun and all the heavenly bodies to turn around it. It is heresy to suggest otherwise.

SCENE TWO

Narrator E: Galileo's observations prove to him that Copernicus was right--but he is cautious about saying so. When he publishes a book about his findings, Starry Messenger, his reputation grows. But he also begins to attract enemies. Some report him to the Roman Inquisition. Alarmed, Galileo goes to Rome in 1615 to defend himself. There, one of the church's cardinals warns him.

Cardinal Robert Bellarmine: My friend, your views have gotten you into deep trouble with the church.

Galileo: I don't mean any disrespect. I simply use the methods of observation and science to learn the truth--

Bellarmine (interrupting): I'll tell you the truth. If your methods lead you to defend the theories of Copernicus, the Inquisition will imprison you--or worse. Remember that another stargazer, Giordano Bruno, was burned at the stake a few years ago for doing the same.

Galileo (shaken): Of course. I will obey the holy church's decisions.

Narrator A: Soon after, the Inquisition formally declares that the writings of Copernicus are heresy. Galileo must be cautious.

SCENE THREE

Narrator B: Back in Florence, where he now lives, Galileo resumes his research quietly. But in time, he again begins writing about and defending the methods of science. In 1626, Pope Urban VIII agrees to let him write a new book, but only if Copernicus's views are discussed as theory instead of fact. Published in 1633, the book, Dialogues Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, gets an explosive reaction. At a meeting of the Pope's inner circle ...

Pope Urban VIII (furious): Cardinal Verdi, tell the others what Galileo has written.

Cardinal Verdi: In the book, three people discuss theories about the movement of the universe.

Cardinal Sama: Theories? The speakers in Galileo's book advance the heresies of Copernicus as if they were fact.

Pope: And he puts words of mine in the mouth of a simpleton, whom he is clearly ridiculing.

Narrator C: The Inquisition orders all copies of the book to be confiscated--and its author to stand trial in Rome for teaching heresy.

SCENE FOUR

Narrator D: By now, Galileo is 69, in poor health, and terrified of what the Inquisition might do to him. On April 12, 1633, he is called to appear before a panel.

Inquisitor: You were told not to teach the theories of Copernicus as fact. Confess your guilt!.

Galileo: But, sir, I did just as His Holiness the Pope instructed me.

Inquisitor: You answer deceitfully. So it's just the people in your book who speak heresy, is it? Do you think we're stupid?

Galileo (stammering): Of course not. I meant no harm.

Narrator E: The Inquisition doesn't reach a verdict at first. Galileo is held as a prisoner and then summoned again on April 30.

Inquisitor: Your book is inflicting grave damage on the church.

Galileo (haltingly): I would never harm the church. Perhaps I gave more emphasis to the case for Copernicus than I should have.

Narrator A: There is still no verdict. Over the next two months, Galileo is called before the Inquisition two more times. He grows sicker and more frightened. Finally, on June 22 ...

Bishop Dina: We've reached a verdict and find you guilty of heresy.

Galileo: Please don't hurt me. Forgive a tired old man.

Dina: Kneel and renounce your heresy!

Galileo: With all my heart I curse my errors. I will never again contradict the holy church.

EPILOGUE

Narrator B: The trials left Galileo a broken man. Because of his condition, he was allowed to spend the remaining years of his life under house arrest. But in the end, his ideas could not be ignored. In 1992, 350 years after his death, the Roman Catholic Church officially admitted that Galileo had been right.

Today, Galileo's contributions to modern science (see p. 19) are considered indispensable. In 1989, when NASA launched a space probe to examine the mysteries of Jupiter and its moons, the probe was named Galileo.

* Think About It

1 Which conclusion of Galileo's did the church object to?

2. Why do you think Galileo admitted guilt at the end? Might you have done the same in his situation? Why or why not?

Characters

Galileo Galilei, mathematician and astronomer

* Vasco Conti, student

* Bernardo Castino, professor at the University of Padua

Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, official of the Roman Catholic Church

Pope Urban VIII, head of the Roman

Catholic Church

* Cardinal Verdi * Cardinal Sama advisers to Pope Urban

* Inquisitor

* Bishop Dina, official of the Inquisition

Narrators A-E

* Indicates a fictional or composite character. All others were real people.

* Words to Know

* heresy (n): a view contrary to church teachings

* heretic (n): one accused of holding dangerous beliefs

* Inquisition (n): an official court of the Roman Catholic Church created to root out heresy

* Renaissance (n): a European cultural movement; in Italy, from about the early 1300s to 1600

* Scientific Revolution (n): an era of great scientific advancement in the 16th and 17th centuries

RELATED ARTICLE: The Father of Modern Science

Why we owe the Italian astronomer a huge debt

Born in Pisa in 1564, Galileo has been called "the greatest mind of all time." His work helped lead to the development of a rigorous scientific method to observe and understand the mysteries of the universe.

Here are a few of his contributions to our scientific understanding.

A STATIONARY SUN

Galileo's observations helped prove that the sun is the center of our solar system, with Earth and the planets revolving around it.

JUPITER'S MOONS

Galileo was the first person to observe Jupiter's four largest moons--now called the Galilean moons.

THE TELESCOPE

After learning about a device from the Netherlands that made distant items appear close, Galileo made his own telescope and used it to study the heavens.

Source Citation
Brown, Bryan. "Galileo on trial: four centuries ago, an Italian scientist dared to claim that Earth revolved around the sun--at the risk of his life." Junior Scholastic 13 Dec. 2010: 16+. General OneFile. Web. 3 Jan. 2011.
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