In 1633, scientist Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by the Inquisition. He was forced to recant his beliefs and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Students may be surprised to learn Galileo's crime: teaching the sun, rather than the earth, is at the center of the solar system. In this lesson, students explore three primary sources and one New York Times article to answer the question: Was Galileo really a heretic?


Superb lesson and excellent choice of documents. The only criticism I have is that there is little attention paid in Document C to the issue of what "philosophically false" meant to the Inquisition (i.e. scientifically false, as we would say today) and Galileo's relationship to Pope Urban. Students need to keep in mind first, that an almost 2000 year old scientific paradigm was being challenged - one that predated Christianity. This question of what happens when paradigms are challenged - scientific, social, political, or otherwise may be a rich addition to this exploration. The other part of this puzzle is the fact that Urban felt himself personally insulted by the scientific position and views assigned to the character "Simplicio" in Galileo's Dialogue. Once again, thanks so much for the outstanding work you have put into an exciting investigation -- and to Stanford for challenging us to greater rigor!!
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