Galileo, Engineer: The astronomer’s experiments appeal to an engineer’s mind


The interested reader may have no­ticed how historians in recent de­cades have attempted to deconstruct the identity of Galileo Galilei. He is no lon­ger just the great astronomer or even just the founder of the modern experimental method in science. Even the political val­ue of his work and his life, systematically reconsidered in the frame of the debates about the relation between Church and research institutions or between religion and science, is no longer the single rel­evant perspective for approaching this kind of historical thread. Thanks to the work of historians of science of the last twenty years, readers are now used to very different interpretations. Galileo is now also a heretic, a revolutionary mar­tyr, a mathematician, an Aristotelian natural philosopher, an artist – almost with brush and palette in his hand – and finally a gifted courtier. This, however, is only an apparent process of fragmen­tation. Historiographically speaking, a process of this kind tends to cancel cat­egories such as “genius” from scientific activities and their histories. Such catego­ries are used to justify the impossibility of explaining historical phenomena. In other terms, the actual history of science requires science and its history to remain rational activities. For this reason, it is relevant to undertake an investigation of Galileo in all of his contexts.