Telescopes, Tides, and Tactics: A Galilean Dialogue about The Starry Messenger and Systems of the World
by Stillman Drake
University of Chicago Press, 1983
Cloth: 978-0-226-16231-7
Library of Congress Classification QB41.G178D7 1983
Dewey Decimal Classification 523.985

Publication of Galileo's Starry Messenger in 1610, detailing startling observations with the newly invented telescope, sparked immediate furor among the astronomers and philosophers of the day. The discovery of the "Medicean stars" (the satellites of Jupiter) was pronounced a hoax, an optical illusion, a logical and theological impossibility. Stillman Drake, one of the world's foremost Galileo scholars, recreates in Telescopes, Tides, and Tactics the fascinating aftermath of the publication of the Starry Messenger. Drawing on Galileo's scientific working papers and the letters and notebooks of his colleagues, Drake presents an imaginative Galilean dialogue using the text of the Starry Messenger as a departure point for discussions of appropriate scientific method, new discoveries, and the emergence of a new world view at this early stage of the Scientific Revolution.

Drake has revised his earlier abridged translation of the Starry Messenger, and for the first time the entire work is presented here in modern English. No other edition or translation of this famous work has analyzed Galileo's recorded observations in detail, compared them with modern calculations, or explained the later use he made of them. In the accompanying fictional dialogue, Salviati, Sagredo, and Sarpi reread the Starry Messenger in 1613 and discuss events and issues raised in the three years since its publication. Much of the dialogue is based on archival materials not previously cited in English. Drake has unearthed a wealth of information that will interest the lay reader as well as the historian and the scientist—descriptions of the various and occasionally bizarre critics of Galileo, a reconstruction of Galileo's promised book on the system of the world, his tables of observations and calculations of satellite motions, and evidence for an early tide theory. It was this theory explaining tides by motions of the earth, rather than the influence of Platonic metaphysics, Drake argues that played a major role in Galileo's acceptance of Copernican astronomy.

Telescopes, Tides, and Tactics is a thorough portrait of Galileo as a working astronomer. Offering much more than a commentary on the Starry Messenger, Drake has written a novel and absorbing contribution to the history of physics and astronomy and the study of the Scientific Revolution.

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