The Silence of Scientists: Venus’s Brightness, Earth’s Precession, and the Nebula in Orion

  • David R. Topper


Conical Motion Precessional Motion Celestial Equator Pole Star Copernican System 
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Notes and References

  1. I have used Edward Rosen’s translation of Copernicus’s On the Revolutions (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978). Copernicus’s value for the precession of Earth is in Book III, Chapter 6. Also, by Rosen, “Copernicus on the Phases and the Light of the Planets,” Organon, 2 (1965), pp. 61–78. Bernard R. Goldstein, “The Pre-Telescopic Treatment of the Phases and Apparent Size of Venus,” Journal for the History of Astronomy, 27 (1996), pp. 1–12.Google Scholar
  2. Richard S. Westfall threw down the gauntlet in, “Science and Patronage: Galileo and the Telescope,” Isis 76 (1985), pp. 11–30. Coming to Galileo’s defense were Owen Gingerich, “Galileo and the Phases of Venus,” published in Sky and Telescope (1984) reprinted in The Great Copernican Chase and Other Adventures in Astronomical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 98–104; Stillman Drake, “Galileo, Kepler, and the phases of Venus,” Journal for the History of Astronomy, 15 (1984), pp. 198–208; and Paolo Palmieri, “Galileo and the Discovery of the Phases of Venus,” Journal for the History of Astronomy, 32 (2001), pp. 109–129; for the quotation from Galileo’s letter of January 1, 1611 to Kepler, see pp. 119 and 128, n. 30. Gingerich’s obituary of Westfall appeared in the Journal for the History of Astronomy, 28 (1997), pp. 184–185. The definitive biography of Newton is still Westfall’s Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  3. I first analyzed Galileo’s work on sunspots in two articles: “Galileo, Sunspots, and the Motions of the Earth: Redux,” Isis, 90 (1999), pp. 757–767, and “‘I know that what I am saying is rather obscure . . .’: On Clarifying a Passage in Galileo’s Dialogue,Centaurus, 42 (2000), pp. 288–296. The brief critique of my thesis is in Paul R. Mueller, “An Unblemished Success: Galileo’s Sunspot Argument in the Dialogue,Journal for the History of Astronomy, 31 (2000), pp. 279–299. My defense appeared as, “Colluding with Galileo: On Mueller’s Critique of my Analysis of Galileo’s Sunspots Argument,” Journal for the History of Astronomy, 34 (2003), pp. 75–76, which is supported by the following Comment by Owen Gingrich, “The Galileo Sunspot Controversy: Proof and Persuasion,” pp. 77–78. I must acknowledge my indebtedness to the pioneering article by A. Mark Smith, “Galileo’s Proof for the Earth’s Motion from the Movement of Sunspots,” Isis, 76 (1985), pp. 543–551.Google Scholar
  4. I have used Stillman Drake’s translation of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic and Copernican (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  5. For the story of Galileo and the nebulae, see Owen Gingerich, “The Mysterious Nebulae, 1610–1924,” published in 1987 in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and reprinted in The Great Copernican Chase and Other Adventures in Astronomical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 225–237. Thomas R. Williams presents his case at the Web site of the Galileo Project:; go to “student work.”Google Scholar
  6. I have used Albert Van Helden’s translation of Galileo’s, Sidereus Nuncius: or the Sidereal Messenger (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  7. Galileo’s discussion of the Book of Joshua is from his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615) reprinted in Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (New York: Doubleday, 1957), pp.175–216, esp. 211–215, and Maurice A. Finocchiaro, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 87–118, esp. 114–117. The unpublished letter on the speculated planetary mechanism (to Monsignor Dini, March 23, 1615) is reprinted in Finocchiaro, pp. 60–67, see p. 66. Mario Biagioli seems to take Galileo’s speculations seriously in Galileo’s Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), Chapter 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David R. Topper
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of WinnipegWinnipegCanada R3B2E9

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