Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

234 × 156 × 40 mm
304 pages
21 illustrations
11 Jun 2018

Burned Alive Giordano Bruno, Galileo and the Inquisition Alberto A. Martínez

In 1600 the Catholic Inquisition condemned the philosopher Giordano Bruno for his heretical beliefs. He was then burned alive in a public place in Rome. Historians, scientists and teachers usually deny that Bruno was condemned for his beliefs about the universe and that his trial was linked to the later confrontations between the Inquisition and Galileo in 1616 and 1633. Based on new evidence, however, Burned Alive asserts that Bruno’s beliefs about the universe were indeed the primary factors that led to Bruno’s condemnation: his beliefs that the stars are suns surrounded by planetary worlds like our own, and that the Earth moves because it has a soul.

Alberto A. Martínez shows how some of the same Inquisitors who judged Bruno also confronted Galileo in 1616. Ultimately the one clergyman who wrote the most critical reports used by the Inquisition to condemn Galileo in 1633 immediately wrote an unpublished manuscript, in which he denounced Galileo and other followers of Copernicus for believing that many worlds exist and that the Earth moves because it has a soul. This book challenges the accepted history of astronomy and shows how cosmology led Bruno bravely to his death.

‘In his provocative new book, Martínez revisits the grim fate of Italian natural philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600. Bruno was an innovative thinker with unusual views on the nature of the universe; he believed that life on other worlds might exist, that the motion of planets was not perfectly circular, and that Earth itself had a soul. Many modern historians have argued that the Catholic Inquisition’s decision to sentence Bruno to death was not primarily about his cosmological views but about other heresies against Catholic teachings, such as his denial of transubstantiation. Martínez, however, draws on the Inquisition’s records to argue that Bruno’s cosmology was in fact the major reason that Inquisitors singled him out as a dangerous and heretical thinker. Burned Alive also shows that some of those same Inquisition personnel were involved in Galileo’s trial in 1633, which provides further evidence of the Inquisition’s interest in stamping out heresies about the cosmos.’ — Physics Today

Burned Alive is a book that all academic libraries should have . . . a fascinating, well-written, and accessible contribution to the study of Bruno and Galileo, and a valuable contextualization of heliocentrism in the broader long-term intellectual continuities of the idea . . . it represents a very useful historical case study in favour of the freedom of thought . . . [and] should prove very valuable in research and teaching.’ — Renaissance and Reformation

‘This book deals with important and interesting topics. It is insightful and original with regard to its main thesis about the historical connection between Pythagoreanism and Bruno’s trial. And it is suggestive and instructive with regard to its secondary thesis about the role of Pythagoreanism in Galileo’s trial.’ — Maurice Finocchiaro, H-Net Reviews

‘An innovative study linking Bruno’s and Galileo’s trials by the Inquisition, this book offers an impressively documented analysis of the ‘Pythagorean’ aspects of their thought, and their heretical implications for the Catholic theologians.’ — Hilary Gatti, author of Ideas of Liberty in Early Modern Europe: from Machiavelli to Milton

‘While the consensus by historians is that the “myth” Bruno was martyred for his cosmological beliefs is false, Martínez in the deep research presented in this book has shown it to be true. I find his arguments compelling and conclusive, supported by previously overlooked or misinterpreted evidence. This is an essential text for any future research into Bruno, Galileo and The Inquisition. In my view it is quite possibly the most important book of the year for the history of astronomy.’ — Clifford J. Cunningham, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage

‘Alberto Martinez offers an interesting and provocative reassessment of the relation between the condemnation of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake, and the milder one that was meted out to Galileo.’ — William R. Shea, author of Galileo Observed: Science and the Politics of Belief and Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius

Show all

Alberto A. Martínez is Professor of History of Science at the University of Texas at Austin. His books include Kinematics: The Lost Origins of Einstein’s Relativity (2009), Science Secrets: The Truth About Darwin’s Finches, Einstein’s Wife, and Other Myths (2011) and The Cult of Pythagoras (2012).