Galileo's Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy

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Overview

In six years, Galileo Galilei went from being a mathematics professor to a star in the court of Florence to a target of the Inquisition. And during that time, Galileo made a series of astronomical discoveries that reshaped the ideas of the physical nature of the heavens and transformed him from a university mathematician into a court philosopher.

Galileo's Instruments of Credit proposes radical new interpretations of key epesodes of Galileo's career, including his telescopic discoveries of 1610, the dispute over sunspots, and the conflict with the Holy Office over the relationship between Copernicanism and scripture. Galileo's tactics shifted as rapidly as his circumstances, argues Mario Biagioli, and these changes forced him to respond swiftly to the opportunities and risks posed by unforeseen inventions, other discoveries, and his opponents.

Focusing on the aspects of Galileo's scientific life that extended beyond court culture and patronage, Biagioli offers a revisionist account of the different systems of exchanges, communication, and credibility at work in Galileo's career. Galileo's Instruments of Credit will fascinate readers interested in the history of astronomy and the history of science in general.

About the Author:
Mario Biagioli is professor of history of science at Harvard University

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Editorial Reviews

Horst Bredekamp

“Biagioli’s new book holds its own next to the ground breaking Galileo, Courtier. Here, Biagioli explores two main categories—economy and distance—allowing the reader to dig deeply into the motifs and psychomotorics of Galileo’s strategies. Never before have Galileo's visual tools been examined side-by-side with the scientific and social impacts of his strategies as inventor, discoverer, and architect of his own success. Biagioli’s writing is elegant and, as ever, enriched by enlightening contradictions that add a literary touch. Once again, a masterpiece.”

David Freedberg

“Once more Mario Biagioli has upended conventional views of the sociology of scientific knowledge. In Galileo’s Instruments of Credit he offers a marvelous account of how Galileo packaged his discoveries, and of his complex and often risky strategies for increasing his credit and authority.  From Biagioli’s groundbreaking discussion of Galileo’s use of visual representation to his unpacking of the great scientist’s metaphor of the book of the universe, this is a revolutionary and unforgettable contribution to the history of science.”

Maurice A. Finocchiaro

"Throughout Biagioli displays his inimitable ingenuity and his interpretive prowess to say things that are always original, insightful, and interesting. The result is a well-documented and well-argued interpretation of Galileo's crucial years."

Mary Poovey

“Inventive. Supple. Responsive to local conditions. Imaginative. Opportunistic. . . Do these terms apply to Galileo’s self-fashioning in the vexed world of early seventeenth-century Italy or to Mario Biagioli’s masterful study of the master-manipulator of credit?  To both, of course. This fascinating, richly documented tale of the intersection of early print culture and science will challenge and delight all readers interested in the ways that belief must be generated in order for truth to exist.”

Simon Schaffer

“Biagioli established his repute in the field with an important work on Galileo’s enterprises in Florence and Rome, Galileo Courtier, a decade ago. Galileo’s Instruments of Credit is a remarkable and impressive set of discussions of crucial episodes in the history of modern sciences.”

Albert van Helden

“As Biagioli has previously shown, Galileo’s science was not done in a social and institutional vacuum. In this book, Biagioli expands his scope, examining metaphors of nature, the uses of pictorial evidence, and ideas about intellectual property and scientific authority within the context of the shifting rhetorical strategies Galileo employed in his battle for the emerging new science.”

New Scientist - Antony Anderson

"In 1609, while he was professor of mathematics at Padua in Italy, and in his mid-40s, Galileo Galilei heard of the invention of the telescope by Hans Lippershey and constructed a vastly improved version with lenses that he ground himself. Within six years, the astronomical discoveries he made with it took him from being an unknown mathematics professor running a student boarding house to a star of the court of the Medici in Florence, where he soon found himself at the receiving end of unwelcome attention from the Inquisition. Biagioli reinterprets key episodes of Galileo's career and shows how his tactics rapidly shifted to match his changing circumstances. His study presents a fresh and interesting view of the challenges faced by the 17th century scientist."

Science - Paula Findlen

"Galileo’s Instruments of Credit is worth reading, both to see where studies of Galileo are going and to understand the uneasy but always interesting relationship between the history of science and contemporary science studies.... offers a number of interesting insights into how to understand the uses of instruments and images in early modern science."

American Historical Review - Pamela O. Long

"Biagioli combines careful empirical investigations and an on-going dialogue with theoretical issues. . . . An important contribution to Galilean studies, to issues of credit and authorship, and to broader issues relevant to the history of science and the investigation of knowledge production."

Isis - Eileen Reeves

"Biagioli has produced a complex and compelling account of the discoveries and debates of these crucial years."

Technology and Culture - Peter R. Dear

"What Biagioli achieves is a revitalization of interpretive approaches to matters that we thought we understood."

New Scientist
In 1609, while he was professor of mathematics at Padua in Italy, and in his mid-40s, Galileo Galilei heard of the invention of the telescope by Hans Lippershey and constructed a vastly improved version with lenses that he ground himself. Within six years, the astronomical discoveries he made with it took him from being an unknown mathematics professor running a student boarding house to a star of the court of the Medici in Florence, where he soon found himself at the receiving end of unwelcome attention from the Inquisition. Biagioli reinterprets key episodes of Galileo's career and shows how his tactics rapidly shifted to match his changing circumstances. His study presents a fresh and interesting view of the challenges faced by the 17th century scientist.

— Antony Anderson,

Science
Galileo’s Instruments of Credit is worth reading, both to see where studies of Galileo are going and to understand the uneasy but always interesting relationship between the history of science and contemporary science studies.... offers a number of interesting insights into how to understand the uses of instruments and images in early modern science.

— Paula Findlen

Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Throughout Biagioli displays his inimitable ingenuity and his interpretive prowess to say things that are always original, insightful, and interesting. The result is a well-documented and well-argued interpretation of Galileo's crucial years.

— Maurice A. Finocchiaro

American Historical Review
Biagioli combines careful empirical investigations and an on-going dialogue with theoretical issues. . . . An important contribution to Galilean studies, to issues of credit and authorship, and to broader issues relevant to the history of science and the investigation of knowledge production.

— Pamela O. Long

Isis
Biagioli has produced a complex and compelling account of the discoveries and debates of these crucial years.

— Eileen Reeves

Technology and Culture
What Biagioli achieves is a revitalization of interpretive approaches to matters that we thought we understood.

— Peter R. Dear

Northeastern Naturalist

"Readers interested in Galileo, the history of astronomy, and how economic circumstances and implications affect how and why discoveries are revealed will find this book to be intriguing reading."

Science

"Galileo’s Instruments of Credit is worth reading, both to see where studies of Galileo are going and to understand the uneasy but always interesting relationship between the history of science and contemporary science studies.... offers a number of interesting insights into how to understand the uses of instruments and images in early modern science."—Paula Findlen, Science

— Paula Findlen

Isis

"Biagioli has produced a complex and compelling account of the discoveries and debates of these crucial years."—Eileen Reeves, Isis

— Eileen Reeves

New Scientist

"In 1609, while he was professor of mathematics at Padua in Italy, and in his mid-40s, Galileo Galilei heard of the invention of the telescope by Hans Lippershey and constructed a vastly improved version with lenses that he ground himself. Within six years, the astronomical discoveries he made with it took him from being an unknown mathematics professor running a student boarding house to a star of the court of the Medici in Florence, where he soon found himself at the receiving end of unwelcome attention from the Inquisition. Biagioli reinterprets key episodes of Galileo's career and shows how his tactics rapidly shifted to match his changing circumstances. His study presents a fresh and interesting view of the challenges faced by the 17th century scientist."—Antony Anderson, New Scientist

— Antony Anderson,

Technology and Culture

"What Biagioli achieves is a revitalization of
— Peter R. Dear

American Historical Review

"Biagioli combines careful empirical investigations and an on-going dialogue with theoretical issues. . . . An important contribution to Galilean studies, to issues of credit and authorship, and to broader issues relevant to the history of science and the investigation of knowledge production."—Pamela O. Long, American Historical Review

— Pamela O. Long

Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences

"Throughout Biagioli displays his inimitable ingenuity and his interpretive prowess to say things that are always original, insightful, and interesting. The result is a well-documented and well-argued interpretation of Galileo's crucial years."—

Maurice A. Finocchiaro, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences

— Maurice A. Finocchiaro

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226045610
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mario Biagioli is professor of history of science at Harvard University and the author of Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : from brass instruments to textual supplements 1
Ch. 1 Financing the aura : distance and the construction of scientific authority 21
Ch. 2 Replication or monopoly? : the Medicean stars between invention and discovery 77
Ch. 3 Between risk and credit : picturing objects in the making 135
Ch. 4 The supplemental economy of Galileo's book of nature 219
Epilogue : unintended differences 261
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