It was on this date, February 15, 1564, that Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, now in Italy but then a dependency of the city-state of Florence. Galileo had proven through direct observation what Nicolaus Copernicus had only conjectured through reason and mathematics 72 years earlier: that the sun, not the earth, stands at the center of the solar system. In 1615 Cardinal (“Saint”) Robert Bellarmine – a 73-year-old Jesuit whose knowledge of science could fill a small chalice – summoned the 51-year-old scientist to Rome, charging that his cosmological idea was “formally [i.e., "explicitly"] heretical, inasmuch as it expressly contradicts the statements of Holy Scripture in many places.”
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Originally published February 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.