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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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The Freedom of Intellect

The Freedom of Intellect

(p.197) Chapter Twenty-Four The Freedom of Intellect
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

This chapter focusses on Galileo’s The Assayer, his contribution to a debate that began with the appearance in August 1618 of the first of three comets. These had been observed by the Jesuits of the Collegio Romano using their Galilean telescope. Orazio Grassi, the professor of mathematics at the college, published a report arguing that the comet was located between the Moon and the Sun, supporting this with arguments that included the suggestion that the more distant an object, the less it was magnified by a telescope. Galileo responded to this publication with The Assayer, which reads almost as a manifesto of his approach to natural philosophy. Although barred from directly advocating Copernicus’ system, Galileo sought to ‘teach a method which would inevitably transform all natural philosophy and thus sooner or later establish a true system of the universe and demolish Aristotelian physics’.

Keywords:   Galileo, Copernicus, comets, The Assayer, natural philosophy, Orazio Grassi

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