Galileo, Courtier
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Galileo, Courtier

The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism

Mario Biagioli

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eBook - ePub

Galileo, Courtier

The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism

Mario Biagioli

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Informed by currents in sociology, cultural anthropology, and literary theory, Galileo, Courtier is neither a biography nor a conventional history of science. In the court of the Medicis and the Vatican, Galileo fashioned both his career and his science to the demands of patronage and its complex systems of wealth, power, and prestige. Biagioli argues that Galileo's courtly role was integral to his science—the questions he chose to examine, his methods, even his conclusions. Galileo, Courtier is a fascinating cultural and social history of science highlighting the workings of power, patronage, and credibility in the development of science.

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NOTES
PROLOGUE
1. Bertolt Brecht, Galileo (New York: Grove Press, 1966). I am aware of the anachronism entailed by my use of “science” in relation to Galileo’s activities. Here and elsewhere in the book I could have used more cumbersome terms such as “natural philosophy” or “mathematical natural philosophy” which would have been more appropriate to Galileo’s historical context. However, I have decided to adopt “science” as a shorthand label for these activities—a label I am consciously using “under erasure.”
2. Edgar Zilsel, “The Genesis of the Concept of Scientific Progress” and “Origins of Gilbert’s Scientific Method,” in Philip Wiener and Aaron Noland, eds., Roots of Scientific Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1957), pp. 219–50, 251–75; Paolo Rossi, I filosofi e le macchine, 1400–1700 (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1984).
3. These relationships were initially indicated by, among others, R. J. W. Evans, Rudolph II and His World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973); Dario Franchini et al., eds., La scienza a corte (Rome: Bulzoni, 1979); Robert S. Westman, “The Astronomer’s Role in the Sixteenth Century: A Preliminary Study,” History of Science 18 (1980): 105–47; and Owen Hannaway, “Laboratory Design and the Aim of Science: Andreas Libavius versus Tycho Brahe,” Isis 77 (1986): 585–610.
4. For a succinct statement of this view, see Michel Foucault, “Truth and Power,” in Colin Gordon, ed., Power/Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1980), pp. 109–33.
5. See, for instance, Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); and Randolph Starn, “Seeing Culture in a Room for a Renaissance Prince,” in Lynn Hunt, ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 205–32. The exception to the neglect of individual self-fashioning by historians of science is the recent work by Steven Shapin, especially his “The House of Experiment in Seventeenth-Century England,” Isis 79 (1988): 373–404; and idem, “A Scholar and a Gentleman,” History of Science 29 (1991): 279–327.
6. In particular, I am thinking of the 1612–13 dispute on sunspots with the Jesuit mathematician Christopher Scheiner (which is treated only briefly here), the “Letter to the Grand Duchess,” and the 1632 Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems—a text that I consider only in relationship to Galileo’s trial of 1633. I would have liked to extend this analysis to cover in more detail Galileo’s involvement, beginning in 1611, with the Accademia dei Lincei.
7. Robert S. Westman, “The Astronomer’s Role in the Sixteenth Century: A Preliminary Study,” History of Science 18 (1980): 105–47.
8. In Mario Biagioli, “The Social Status of Italian Mathematicians, 1450–1600,” History of Science 27 (1989): 41–95, I have provided some background for Galileo’s strategies by sketching out the culture, social status, career patterns, institutional affiliations, and intellectual traditions of Italian mathematicians who operated before and around him.
9. For a biography of Galileo’s early years, see Stillman Drake, Galileo at Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978).
10. Thomas B. Settle, “Ostilio Ricci, a Bridge between Alberti and Galileo,” Actes du Xlle Congrès International d’Histoire des Sciences (Paris, 1971): pp. 229–38. On the Florentine culture of mathematician-artists, see idem, “Egnazio Danti and Mathematical Education in Late Sixteenth-Century Florence,” in John Henry and Sarah Hutton, eds., New Perspectives on Renaissance Thought (London: Duckworth, 1990), pp. 24–37.
11. Biagioli, “Social Status of Italian Mathematicians,” 53.
12. Antonio Favaro, “Galileo e Venezia,” Galileo Galilei e lo Studio di Padova (Florence, 1883; reprint, Padua: Antenore, 1966), vol. 2: 69–102; idem, “Intorno ai servigi straordinari prestati da Galileo Galilei alla Repubblica Veneta,” Atti del Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti, series 7, 1 (1889–90): 91–109. On the Arsenal, see Ennio Concina, L’Arsenale della Repubblica di Venezia (Milan: Electa, 1984).
13. Most of the texts involved in the events of 1616 are translated, with a commentary, in Richard J. Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991).
14. Richard S. Westfall, “Science and Patronage: Galileo and the Telescope,” Isis 76 (1985): 11–30; Westman, “The Astronomer’s Role.”
15. Norbert Elias, The Court Society (New York: Pantheon, 1983); idem, The History of Manners (New York: Pantheon, 1982); idem, Power and Civility (New York: Pantheon, 1982); Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984).
ONE: Galileo’s Self-fashioning
1. “Primo Segretario,” Vinta’s title, does not translate well into any modern political role. “Secretary of State” may be its least distorting analogue. Vinta obtained that post in December 1609.
2. Galileo Galilei, Opere, ed. Antonio Favaro (Florence: 1890–1909), vol. 10, no. 307, p. 353. Henceforth cited as GO. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the Italian are mine.
3. On Galileo’s patronage, see Paolo Galluzzi, “Il mecenatismo mediceo e le scienze,” in Cesare Vasoli, ed., Idee, istituzioni, scienza, ed arti nella Firenze dei Medici (Florence: Giunti-Martello, 1980), pp. 189–215; Richard Westfall, “Science and Patronage: Galileo and the Telescope,” Isis 76 (1985): 11–30; idem, “Galileo and the Accademia dei Lincei,” in Paolo Galluzzi, ed., Novità celesti e crisi del sapere (Florence: Giunti Barbèra, 1984), pp. 189–200; idem, “Galileo and the Jesuits,” and “Patronage and the Publication of the Dialogue,” in Essays on the Trial of Galileo (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, 1989); and Michael Segre, “Galileo as a Politician,” Sudhoffs Archiv 72 (1988): 69–82. Because studies of early modern scientific patronage have become increasingly common in the last few years, I will not list them here but include them in the Bibliography.
4. Richard Westfall’s studies of Galileo’s patronage strategies reflect this type of historiography, one that reaches back to the work of Alexandre Koyré and Edwin Burtt.
5. It is an interesting paradox that such an essentialistic (in the Aristotelian sense) view of scientific rationality as the one held by this historiographical tradition turns out to be in patent contradiction with the notion of scientific rationality it claims to defend.
6. On this issue, see Mario Biagioli, “Galileo’s System of Patronage,” History of Science 28 (1990): 42–45.
7. Institutions are reassuring entities for historians because they usually come with conspicuous buildings (and pictures of them), statutes, archives, journals, and records of discussions and prize competitions. However, we should not forget that the success of institutions as historiographical categories reflects not only their actual historical relevance but also their conspicuous archival “presence.” The spell that institutions have cast on recent historiography also has a fetishistic character. Institutions allow historians to “touch” the past in very tangible ways. In contrast, patronage—an institution without walls, its reality made of etiquette-bound rituals rather than of “things” such as buildings and statutes—has eluded many historians of early modern science.
8. Such a notion of patronage could be more than a premodern version of the social system of science, for it could also be used to uncover the nonmodern dimensions of the modern social system of science and to revise some of the claims of the institution-based historiography of modern science. For example, Dorinda Outram, Georges Cuvier (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), views scientific institutions as frames within which networks of patronage were developed, suggesting a continuity between the social systems of early modern and modern science.
9. On self-fashioning in this period, Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning is the locus classicus.
10. See, for instance, Benvenuto Cellini, The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, trans. John Addington Symonds (New York: Doubleday, 1961); Giambattista Marino, Lettere (Turin: Einaudi, 1966); Giorgio Vasari, Vita di Michelangelo, ed. Paola Barocchi (Milan-Naples: Ricciardi, 1962), vol. 1.
11. Cicero, De re publica, ii.16, quoted in Ronald Weissman, “Taking Patronage Seriously,” in F. W. Kent, Patricia Simons, and J. C. Eade, eds., Patronage, Art and Society in Renaissance Italy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 33.
12. See Weissman, “Taking Patronage Seriously,” esp. pp. 27–30.
13. Examples of works in the history of Renaissance Florence that have treated patronage as a complex social institution are Richard Trexler, Public Life in Renaissance Florence (New York: Academic Press, 1980); F. W. Kent, Household and Lineage in Renaissance Florence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); Ronald Weissman, Ritual Brotherhood in Renaissance Florence (New York: Academic Press, 1982); and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, “Kin, Friends, and Neighbors,” in Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 68–93. Relevant essays on patronage in early modern Italy are found in Kent, Simons, and Eade, Patronage, Art and Society in Renaissance Italy. More traditional views on patronage in early modern Europe are found in Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel, eds., Patronage in the Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), and Yves Durand, ed., Hommage à Roland Mousnier: Clienteles et fidélités en Europe à l’époque moderne (Paris: PUF, 1981). I have found useful a few works on early modern French patronage and aristocratic culture, such as Sharon Kettering, Patrons, Brokers and Clients in Seventeenth-Century France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); idem, “Gift-Giving and Patronage in Early Modern France,” French History 2 (1988): 131–51; idem, “The Patronage Power of Early Modern French Noblewomen,” The Historical Journal 4 (1989): 817–41; idem, “The Historical Development of Political Clientelism,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 3 (1988): 419–47; Mark Greengrass, “Noble Affinities in Early Modern France: The Case of Henri I de Montmorency, Constable of France,” European History Quarterly 16 (1986): 275–311; and Kristen B. Neuschel, Word of Honor (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989). Renata Ago, Carriere e clientele nella Roma barocca (Bari: Laterza, 1990), provides a remarkable study of how patronage shaped identities and careers in late seventeenth-century Rome. Patronage as a form of social organization in the Mediterranean basin is studied in J. Pitt-Rivers, Mediterranean Countrymen (Paris: Mouton, 1963); and Ernest Gellner and John Waterbury eds., Patrons and Clients in Mediterranean Societies (London: Duckworth, 1977). For soc...

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