CBC Digital Archives

Astronomy: Galileo's integrity

In 1609 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei unveiled his first telescope. To mark the occasion, the United Nations declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. It is a year "to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day and nighttime sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery." The CBC Digital Archives looks at Canadian contributors to astronomy and our own trip through the cosmos.

Controversy has always surrounded scientific discovery. Such was the case in 1610, when Galileo claims to have discovered the phases of Venus. According to science historian Richard Westfall, the discovery may actually belong to Benedetto Castelli, one of Galileo's students. In this conversation with Jay Ingram, Westfall and Stillman Drake debate the accusation. We also learn from Terry Dickinson what the skies of 1610 may have looked like
• Benedetto Castelli lived from 1578 to 1643. When he lived in a monastary in Padua, Italy, he was Galileo's student from 1604 to 1607. In 1613 Castelli was appointed professor of mathematics at the university of Pisa on Galileo's recommendation.

• Richard Westfall was considered an authority on 17th century science history. He was professor emeritus at Indiana University until his death in 1996 at age 72.

• Canadian science historian Stillman Drake spent most of his career writing about Galileo and his discoveries. His most popular academic study, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo was published in 1957. He published three more titles including Galileo: Pioneering Scientist, in 1990. Drake died in 1993 at age 83.

Medium: Radio
Program: Quirks & Quarks
Broadcast Date: Dec. 3, 1983
Guest(s): Terry Dickinson, Stillman Drake, Richard Westfall
Host: Jay Ingram
Duration: 16:48
Photo: Galileo Telescope/Canadian Press

Last updated: February 10, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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