"Galileo, Courtier", Mario Biagioli, 1993, 0-226-04560-9, U$39.00
%A Mario Biagioli
%C Chicago, IL 60637
%I University of Chicago Press
%O U$39.00 marketing@...
%P 402 p.
%T "Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of
The book looks at Galileo as both using and being shaped by the social
structures of his day. This is interesting in view of the current
debate about science and technology in relation to social and
political effects. There is also an intriguing reversal of positions:
in Galileo's day, science was subordinate to philosophy and theology
while current thought holds that philosophy and theology are
subordinate to science. In addition, it is fascinating to look at the
conjectures in regard to political and unconscious censorship by the
older scientific societies in contrast to the current "paradigmatic"
Chapter one examines the idea of patronage and contrasts it with the
current grant system. The social promotion and acceptability of
ideas, in chapter two, leads to the idea of the importance of
"entertaining" ideas and answers in chapter three. Most of this
discussion analyzes the political and social aspects of debate, but
there is some overemphasis of the idea that "polite" debate helped
establish "objective" science. Chapter four promotes the linguistic
basis for "speciation" of groups of scientists with no recognition of
a more likely mechanism--ego.
An intermezzo describes the complexity of manipulations and power
struggles in the Roman (papal) court. Chapter five seems to want to
outline the debate over the "Assayer" paper on cometary motion as a
fight between patrons of Grassy and Galileo, but the text does not
prove the case. The "Dialogues" trial of 1633, chapter six attempts
to demonstrate as a logical or even necessary outcome of courtly
dynamics, but mostly shows it as a printing contract dispute gone
badly wrong. This and other chapters might be more convincing with
more details of Galileo's life. The epilogue, oddly, seems to think
that the idea of the similarity of court patrons and scientific
politics is radical and new.
The book presents some interesting topics for discussion, but does not
seem to convincingly prove the theses it promotes. It will reward the
reader, but possibly not in the way the author intended.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2002 BKGALCOU.RVW 20020601
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is not a
problem of physics but of ethics. It is easier to denature
plutonium than to denature the evil from the spirit of man.
- Albert Einstein