The wonder in the eyes of a scientist

Thanks to his innate curiosity, man has always explored nature, reflecting on what he sees and becoming more and more aware of physical phenomena. One of the most famous scientists in history was Galileo Galilei, in a way “the father of modern Science”. Combining observation, technology and mathematics, his discoveries came to demonstrate literally a new vision of the world. And amazed the scientist himself. In his Sidereus Nuncius, composed in 1601, Galileo announced what he incredibly saw through the telescope

  • 1564 AD
    Galileo was born in Pisa
  • 1581 AD
    Studies Medicine at the University of Pisa
  • 1581 AD
    The first Italian dictionary was published in Florence.
  • 1589 AD
    Professor of Mathematics at the same University
  • 1592 AD
    Marriage with Marina Gamba.
  • 1592 AD
    Clement VIII became Pope.
  • 1609 AD
    Creation of the spyglass.
  • 1609 AD
    Validation of Copernicus’ theory (heliocentrism)
  • 1610 AD
    German astronomer Kepler publishes his cosmological book “The Harmony of the World”.
  • 1610 AD
    Galileo was rewarded with an appointment as mathematician and philosopher of the grand duke of Tuscany. He published the “Sidereus Nuncius”.
  • 1615 AD
    Galileo addresses one of his most famous Copernican letters to Christina of Lorraine(Grand Duchess of Tuscany).
  • 1615 AD
    Galileo is accused of heresy by the Church.
  • 1623 AD
    “Il saggiatore” was dedicated to the just elected Pope Urban VIII, Galileo’s personal friend and considered to be simpathetic to the new scientific theories
  • 1623 AD
    “Il saggiatore” (creation of the scien- tific method) was published.
  • 1632 AD
    Galileo’s book got condemned by the Church and listed in the “Index librorum prohibitorum”. Pestilence started in Northern Italy.
  • 1632 AD
    “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican” was published.
  • 1633 AD
    Galileo recanted the concept of the book and was allowed to return home.
  • 1633 AD
    Galileo was tried by the Church.
  • 1634 AD
    Galileo became blind.
  • 1638 AD
    There were some earthquakes in Calabria.
  • 1638 AD
    Galileo published his last work, “Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences” (precursor of the modern Sci- ence).
  • 1642 AD
    Galileo died in Florence.
  • 1736 AD
    Galileo was buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence.


I - Introduction

Magna equidem in hac exigua tractatione singulis de natura speculantibus inspicienda contemplandaque propono. Magna, inquam, tum ob rei ipsius praestantiam, tum ob inauditam per aevum novitatem, tum etiam propter Organum, cuius beneficio eadem sensui nostro obviam sese fecerunt.

Lectio Ecclesiastica (Italian Group)
In this short essay, I shall clearly present to every single scholar of natural philosophy some great discoveries to be examined and considered. Great discoveries I say, for the importance of the topic itself, for the never-heard before innovation at the time, and also for the Device itself, thanks to which these same discoveries came to our knowledge.

II - The telescope

Mensibus abhinc decem fere, rumor ad aures nostras increpuit, fuisse a quodam Belga Perspicillum elaboratum, cuius beneficio obiecta visibilia, licet ab oculo inspicientis longe dissita, veluti propinqua distincte cernebantur; ac huius profecto admirabilis effectus nonnullae experientiae circumferebantur, quibus fidem alii praebebant, negabant alii. [...] Quod tandem in causa fuit, ut ad rationes inquirendas, necnon media excogitanda, per quae ad consimilis Organi inventionem devenirem, me totum converterem; quam paulo post, doctrinae de refractionibus innixus, assequutus sum.

Lectio Ecclesiastica (Italian Group)
About ten months after this moment, it came to our ears the news that a telescope had been realised by a certain Belgian, with the help of which the visible objects, although far away from the observer’s eye, could be seen clearly, as if they were near; and, certainly, there was spread a lot of evidence about the efficacy of this astonishing tool, which some gave trust to, some others denied. [...] In the end this was the reason why I committed my whole self on searching for the causes, as well as on finding the ways, thanks to which I could turn up at the invention of a very similar Device; and I accomplished it a little later, basing my researches on the theory of reflections.

III - The observation of the moon

De facie autem Lunae, quae ad aspectum nostrum vergit, primo loco dicamus. Quam, facilioris intelligentiae gratia, in duas partes distinguo, alteram nempe clariorem, obscuriorem alteram: clarior videtur totum hemisphaerium ambire atque perfundere, obscurior vero, veluti nubes quaedam, faciem ipsam inficit maculosamque reddit. Istae autem maculae, subobscurae et satis amplae, unicuique sunt obviae, illasque aevum omne conspexit; quapropter magnas, seu antiquas, eas appellabimus, ad differentiam aliarum macularum amplitudine minorum, at frequentia ita consitarum, ut totam Lunarem superficiem, praesertim vero lucidiorem partem, conspergant; hae vero a nemine ante nos observatae fuerunt: ex ipsarum autem saepius iteratis inspectionibus in eam deducti sumus sententiam, ut certo intelligamus, Lunae superficiem, non perpolitam, aequabilem, exactissimaeque sphaericitatis existere, ut magna philosophorum cohors de ipsa deque reliquis corporibus caelestibus opinata est, sed, contra, inaequalem, asperam, cavitatibus tumoribusque confertam.

Lectio Ecclesiastica (Italian Group)
But we are going to talk first about the Moon’s face which turns to our sight. And, in favor of a more immediate comprehension, I distinguish it into two parts, one clearer, darker the other: the clearer one seems to surround and to overspread all of the hemisphere, whereas the darker one, like some clouds, overshadows its own face and makes it stained. Therefore, these stains, being dark and quite wide, are visible to anyone, and people have always seen them; for this reason we will call them great, or rather ancient, different from other smaller stains in wideness; yet the amount of them together is such that they cover all of the moon’s surface, but mostly the brighter side; actually, those staines have never been well observed by anyone beside us: moreover, from their very-often repeated observations, we are led to the conclusion that we have understood for sure that the surface of the moon is not polished, uniform and perfectly spherical, as a huge group of philosophers supposed about it and about other celestial bodies but, instead, it is irregular, rugged, characterized by cavities and growths.


Galileo’s work is structured according to a logical order: there is an introduction, followed by the description of the discovery of the telescope and the use of the instrument. The introduction immediately clarifies the exceptional nature of the discoveries of Galileo’s and the extreme innovation of the method employed. The descriptive part of the text is less formal than the introduction. It narrates the invention of the telescope and Galileo’s wish for constructing a prototype and for using it in his astronomical observation. The direct observation of the lunar surface, thanks to the telescope, persuades Galileo that previous opinions were to be refuted. This part of the text can be divided in two: in the first one there is the observation of the moon, in which Galileo uses verbs related to the sphere of sight or verbs easily comprehensible to clarify the observed events; in the second one he interprets the observed data, using verbs related to objective reality (existo) and personal understanding (intelligo) given by the reflection on the phenomena. Galileo refutes the positions of the philosophers on the lunar surface with a new method based on the observation and the processing of the collected data, which is the scientific method. The verb he uses to describe the philosophical procedure is opino (to suppose), a verb connected to pure abstraction without any concrete evidence, while the verb linked to the scientific method is intelligo, which indicates the complete understanding of a phenomenon thanks to objective evidence. The style used is at the same time objective and commemorative of the scientist’s discoveries, using a hypotatic syntax which allows him to express many concepts in the same sentence. This kind of prose is typical of scientific essays which look for declarative clearness in the introduction of what reported. The wonder integrates into Galileo’s narration by linking itself to the innovation of his discoveries, unheard in those times and therefore remarkable for the scientific community first, and then for the entire world. In the text wonder is clearly connected with Science rather than Magic. By writing in Latin, Galileo made his discoveries official. In the same time, using the international language for culture, he allowed the scientific community to know them.


Contrappunto per due liuti is a piece of music composed by the musician Vincenzo Galilei, Galileo’s father. Vincenzo Galilei was born in 1525 in Florence, from a noble family. He undertook the musical career and developed a great way of composing madrigals and counterpoints and of playing the lute. Contrappunto per due liuti’s first edition was in 1584, it was performed with two voices or instruments. It was composed in Renaissance style.

The piece of music “A un giro sol de begl’occhi” was composed by Claudio Monteverdi, who was an important italian’s songwriter (he was born in Cremona, in 1567 - he died in 1643), he marked the transition from renaissance music to baroque music. The composition, that is a part of the “IV Libro de Madrigali” (1603), is a madrigal performed with 5 voices (soprano, two contraltos, tenor and basso). The text of the piece of music was a Giovanni Battista Guarini’s composition (Ferrara 1538-Ven- ice 1612).


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called “il Guercino”, 1647, Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

In this painting there is a connection with Galileo’s most important discovery: the telescope. This painting has been used more than any other by historians of science and culture in order to represent the age of the Scientific Revolution started by Galileo.The opera shows Endymion, a beautiful shepherd whom, according to the myth, Selene, goddess of the Moon, fell in love with. While he was sleeping, Selene came down on Earth and kissed him, and Endymion, who wanted to remember that pleasure forever, obtained from Zeus an eternal sleep, and he stopped growing old. Ancient sources, such as the Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, see Endymion as the first man who has ever recognised the beauty of the moon in every aspect.

Drawings of the Moon

Galileo Galilei, November-December 1609

Drawings of the Moon, November-December 1609 Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Ms. Gal. 48, f. 28r Galileo produced this extremely famous set of six watercolours of the Moon in its various phas- es “from life”, as he observed the Earth’s satellite through a telescope in the autumn of 1609. They represent the first realistic depiction of the Moon in history.