Galileo's Telescope

Howard Marchitello

in The Machine in the Text

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608058
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729492 | DOI:
Galileo's Telescope

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This chapter discusses one of the great revolutions in early modern cosmology: the discovery of blemishes on the sun. In his Letters on Sunspots, Galileo understood these spots to constitute definitive proof against the Aristotelian belief in a perfect universe. The detection of sunspots was enabled by Galileo's adaptation of the terrestrial telescope to celestial observation. But within this set of technical practices, sunspots are made “real” only by the very technology that enabled observation in the first place. Sunspots were “invented” by the telescope and the technologies of representation deployed in order to make them manifest both to the observer and—through print—to his readers. Galileo's sunspots trouble the conventional understanding of the relation between vision and belief. Rather than serving as an instance of sight conferring belief, these sunspots demonstrate the ways in which belief is first required in order that there can be a confirming vision.

Keywords: sunspots; Scheiner; Copernicanism; cosmology; Kepler; telescope; Clavius

Chapter.  15860 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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