The Ascent of Man 06: The Starry Messenger

Uploaded by Nerisvyre on 16.05.2012

This altar commemorates an ancient astronomical congress
that met in the year 776 AD.
16 mathematicians came here,
to the famous centre of Mayan science, the sacred city of Copan in Central America.
The Mayans had a system of arithmetic which was far ahead of Europe.
For example, they had a symbol for zero.
They were good mathematicians.
Nevertheless, they did not map the motions of the stars.
Their idea of astronomy was purely formal,
a matter of keeping their calendars right.
That is all that was done here.
It can 't be an accident that the New World never thought that the earth is round
and never went out to look for the Old World.
It was the Old World which set sail around the earth to discover the New.
Then did the New World invent nothing?
Of course not.
Even so primitive a culture as Easter Island, here, made one tremendous invention,
the carving of these statues.
There's nothing like them in the world,
and people ask, as usual, all kinds of irrelevant questions about them.
Why were they made like this? How were they transported?
How did they get to the places that they're at?
But that's not the problem.
Stonehenge, of a much earlier Stone Age civilisation,
was much more difficult to put up than this.
So was Avebury, many other monuments.
No, primitive cultures do inch their way through these enormous communal enterprises.
The question about these statues is, why were they all made alike?
You see them, sitting there, like Diogenes, in their barrels, looking at the sky
with empty eye sockets and watching the sun and the stars go overhead
without ever trying to understand them.
When the Dutch discovered this island, on Easter Sunday in 1722,
they said it had the makings of an earthly paradise.
But it didn 't.
An earthly paradise is not made by this empty repetition,
like a caged animal going round and round and making always the same thing.
These frozen faces,
these frozen frames in a film that's running down,
mark a civilisation which failed to take the first step on the ascent of rational knowledge.
Easter Island is over 1,000 miles from the nearest inhabited island,
which is Pitcairn, straight over the volcano,
over 1,500 miles from the next island, which is over there,
which is where the original for Robinson Crusoe was stranded.
Distances like that cannot be navigated unless you have a model of the heavens...
...of star positions, by which you can tell your way.
People often ask about the Easter Islands, how did men come here?
They came here by accident, that's not the question.
The question is, why could they not get off?
And they could not get off because they did not have a sense of the movement of the stars
by which to find their way.
Why not?
Well, one obvious reason is that there is no Pole Star in the southern sky.
We know that's important because it plays a part in the migration of birds,
which find their way by the Pole Star,
and that's why almost all bird migration is in the northern hemisphere and not in the southern.
Well, that could be meaningful down here, in the southern hemisphere,
but it can 't be meaningful for the whole of the New World
because there's Central America, there's Mexico,
there are all sorts of places which also didn 't have an astronomy
and yet which lie north of the Equator.
What was wrong there?
Nobody knows.
I think that they lacked that great dynamic image which so moved the Old World,
the wheel.
The wheel was only a toy in the New World.
But in the Old World, it was the greatest image of poetry and science.
Everything was founded on it.
This sense of the heavens moving round their hub,
which inspired Christopher Columbus when he set sail in 1492.
He had it from the Greeks,
who believed that the stars were fixed on spheres which made music as they turned.
Wheels within wheels.
That was the system of Ptolemy that had worked for over 1,000 years.
100 years before Christopher Columbus set sail,
the Old World was able to make this superb clockwork of the starry heavens.
It was made by Giovanni De Dondi in Padua about 1350.
It took him 16 years to make.
But more than the mechanical marvel
is the intellectual conception, which comes from Aristotle and Ptolemy and the Greeks,
which is the view of the planets as seen from the earth.
From the earth there are seven planets.
The sun.
Notice that its motion is running on a clockwork wheel inside a wheel.
More complex wheels within wheels.
Wheels within wheels.
Then we come back to the moon.
Isn 't she delicious?
To Mercury.
And finally, to Venus.
And again, the same picture,
the wheel that carries Venus turns inside a larger hypothetical wheel.
It's a marvellous intellectual conception.
Very complex.
But that only makes it more marvellous that in 150 AD, not long after the birth of Christ,
the Greeks should have been able to conceive and put into mathematics
this superb construction.
Then what is wrong with it?
One thing only.
That there are seven dials for the heavens...
...and the heavens must have one machinery, not seven.
But that machinery was not found
until Copernicus put the sun at the centre of the heavens.
Nicolaus Copernicus
was a distinguished churchman and humanist intellectual from Poland.
He had advised his government on currency reform and the Pope on calendar reform.
For the last 20 years of his life roughly,
he devoted himself to the modern proposition that nature must be simple.
Why were the paths of the planets so complicated?
Because, he decided, we look at them from the place where we happen to be standing,
the earth.
Like the pioneers of perspective, Copernicus asked why not look at them from another place.
There are good Renaissance reasons, emotional rather than intellectual reasons,
that made him choose the golden sun as the other place.
So, in 1543, at the age of 70,
Copernicus finally braced himself to publish his mathematical description of the heavens.
What he called De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium,
The Revolution Of The Heavenly Orbs, as a single system moving around the sun.
The word revolution has an overtone now which is not astronomical.
And that's not an accident.
It comes from this time and this book.
Copernicus died in the same year.
It's said that he only saw copy of his book once,
when it was put into his hands on his deathbed.
(Bell rings)
The system of Copernicus seemed unnatural to his age,
even though the planets still run in circles.
It was a younger man, Johannes Kepler, working later, here in Prague,
who showed that the paths are really elliptical.
That was not what bothered the man in the street, or in the pulpit.
They were committed to the wheel of the heavens.
The hosts of heaven must march round the earth.
That had become an article of faith, as if the Church had made up its mind
that the system of Ptolemy was invented, not by a Levantine Greek,
but by the Almighty himself.
Clearly, the issue was not one of doctrine, but of authority.
The issue did not come to a head until 70 years later, in Venice.
Two great men were born in the year 1564.
One was William Shakespeare, in England,
the other was Galileo Galilei in Italy.
When Shakespeare writes about the drama of power in his own age,
he twice brings the scene here, to the Republic of Venice,
once in The Merchant Of Venice, and then in Othello.
That's because in 1600, the Mediterranean was still the centre of the world,
and Venice was the hub of the Mediterranean.
And here ambitious men came to work because they were free to work without restraint.
Merchants and adventurers and intellectuals, a host of artists and artisans,
crowded these streets as they do now.
The Venetians had the reputation of being a secret and devious people.
Venice was a sort of free port, as we would say,
and carried with that some of the conspiratorial air
which haunts neutral cities like Lisbon and Tangier.
It was in Venice that a false patron had trapped Giordano Bruno
and handed him to the Inquisition.
Certainly the Venetians were a practical people.
Galileo had done deep work in fundamental science at Pisa,
but what made the Venetians hire him, I suspect, was his talent for practical inventions.
An apparatus rather like a thermometer,
a delicate hydrostatic balance to find the density of precious objects,
and something which Galileo, who had a knack for salesmanship,
called a military compass,
though it's really a calculating instrument not unlike a modern slide rule.
Galileo made and sold them in his own workshop.
This was sound commercial science as the Venetians admired it.
So, it is no wonder that when, late in 1608,
some spectacle makers in Flanders invent a primitive form of spyglass,
they try to come and sell it here, to the Republic of Venice.
But of course, the Republic had in its service, in the person of Galileo,
a scientist and mathematician immensely more powerful than any in northern Europe.
And a much better publicist who, when he made a telescope,
bustled the Venetian senate to the top of the Campanile to show it off.
Galileo was a short, square, active man with red hair.
He was 45 when he heard the news of the Flemish invention, and it electrified him.
He thought it out for himself in one night
and made an instrument about as good, with a magnification of three...
...which is only about a rather superior opera glass.
But before he came to the Campanile in Venice...
...he stepped the magnification up to ten.
And then he had a real telescope.
With that, from this height, where the horizon is about 20 miles,
you can not only see the ship at sea... can identify it two hours' sailing and more away.
And that was worth a lot of money to the brokers on the Rialto.
Galileo is the creator of the modern scientific method.
And he did that in the six months following his triumph on the Campanile,
which would have been enough for anyone else.
It occurred to him then
that it was not enough to turn the Flanders toy into an instrument of navigation,
it could also be turned into an instrument of research,
an idea which was altogether new to that age.
He stepped up the magnification of the telescope to 30
and he turned it on the stars.
In that way, he really did for the first time, what we think of as practical science.
Build the apparatus, do the experiment, publish the results.
And that he did between September of 1609 and March 1610,
when he published, in Venice, the splendid book The Starry Messenger.
What did it say?
GALILEO: I've seen stars in millions which have never been seen before
and which srpass the old previbsly-known stars in nmber more than ten times
Bt that which will excite the greatest astonishment by far
and which indeed especially moved me
to call attentibn of all astronomers and philosophers is this
that I have discovered for planets
neither known nor observed by any one of the astronomers before my time
BRONOWSKl: These were the satellites of Jupiter.
The Starry Messenger also tells how he turned the telescope on the moon herself.
Galileo was the first man to publish maps of the moon.
We have his original watercolours.
GALILEO: It is a most beatifl and delightfl sight to behold the body of the moon
It certainly does not possess a smooth and polished srface
bt one rogh and neven and jst like the face of the earth itself
is everywhere fll of vast protberances and deep chasms and sinosities
It was sensational.
It made a reputation...
...larger even than the triumph among the trading community.
And yet it was not altogether welcome.
Because what Galileo saw in the sky...
...and revealed to everyone who was willing to look,
was that the Ptolemaic heaven simply would not work.
That Copernicus's powerful guess had been right and now stood open and revealed.
And, like many more recent scientific results,
that did not at all please the prejudice of the establishment of his day.
Galileo thought that all he had to do was to show that Copernicus was right
and everybody would listen.
That was his first mistake...
...the mistake of being naive about people's motives, which scientists make all the time.
He also thought that his reputation was now large enough
for him to be able to go back to his native Florence,
leave the rather dreary teaching which had become burdensome to him,
for which Venice paid him at its University of Padua,
leave the protection of this essentially anti-clerical safe Republic of Venice.
That was his second and, in the end, fatal, mistake.
The reaction against Luther was in full cry.
~ Kyrie from Mass "Cum Giubilate"
The struggle in Europe was for authority.
In 1618, the Thirty Years War began.
In 1622, Rome created the Institution for the Propagation of the Faith
from which we still derive the word propaganda.
Catholics and Protestants were embattled in what we should now call a cold war,
in which, if Galileo had only known it, no quarter was given to a great man, or small.
The judgment was very simple on both sides.
Whoever is not for us is a heretic.
Even so unworldly an interpreter of faith as Cardinal Bellarmine
had found the astronomical speculations of Giordano Bruno intolerable
and had sent him to the stake.
The Church was a great temporal power,
and in that bitter time, it was fighting a political crusade
in which all means were justified by the end.
The ethics of the police state.
Galileo seems to me to have been strangely innocent about the world of politics.
And most innocent in thinking that he could outwit it because he was clever.
For 20 years and more he moved along a path that led inevitably to his condemnation.
There was never any doubt that Galileo would be silenced
because the division between him and those in authority was absolute.
They believed that faith should dominate.
And Galileo believed that truth should persuade.
That clash of principles, and of course of personalities,
came into the open at the trial of Galileo in 1633.
But every political trial has a long hidden history of what went on behind the scenes.
And the underground history of what came before the trial of Galileo is here
in the locked secret archives of the Vatican.
Among all these corridors of documents,
there is one modest safe in which the Vatican keeps what it regards as the crucial documents.
Here, for example... the application of Henry Vlll for divorce,
the refusal of which brought the Reformation to England and ended the tie to Rome.
The trial of Giordano Bruno.
And here, the famous codex 1181:
Proceedings Against Galileo Galilei.
The trial was in 1633.
And the first remarkable thing is,
that the documents begin when?
In 1611.
At the moment of triumph, in Venice, in Florence, and here in Rome,
secret information is being laid against Galileo before the Holy Office of the Inquisition.
By then Galileo himself becomes alarmed.
Unbidden, he goes to Rome... order to persuade his friends among the cardinals
not to prohibit the Copernican world system.
But he's too late.
In February of 1616,
here are the formal words.
Propositions to be forbidden.
That the sun is immovable at the centre of the heaven,
that the earth is not at the centre of the heaven and is not immovable,
but moves by a double motion.
Galileo seems to have escaped any severe censure himself.
At any rate, he is called before the great Cardinal Bellarmine
and he is convinced and has a letter from Bellarmine
to say that he must not hold or defend the Copernican world system,
but there the document stops.
Unhappily, there's a document here in the record which goes further,
and on which the trial then is going to turn.
But that's all 17 years in the future.
Meanwhile, Galileo goes back to Florence and he knows two things.
One is that the time to defend Copernicus in public is not yet.
And the second,
that he thinks there will be such a time.
About the first he's right.
About the second, no.
Well, he bided his time until when?
Until an intellectual cardinal should be elected Pope.
Maffeo Barberini.
That happened in 1623,
when Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban Vlll.
The new Pope was a lover of the arts.
He loved music.
He commissioned the composer Allegri to write the Miserere For 9 Voices,
which long afterwards was reserved for the Vatican.
The new Pope loved architecture.
He wanted to make Rome glorious as the centre of Christianity.
And to make St Peter's the centre of Rome.
He put Bernini in charge of completing St Peter's
and Bernini boldly designed the tall Baldachino
which is the only worthy addition to Michelangelo's original design.
Pope Urban Vlll thought of himself as an innovator.
~ Miserere For 9 Voices
POPE URBAN Vlll: I know better than all the cardinals pt together
The sentence of a living pope is worth more than all the decrees of 100 dead ones
BRONOWSKl: But in fact, Barberini as Pope turned out to be pure baroque.
A lavish nepotist. Extravagant, domineering, restless in his schemes
and absolutely tone deaf to the ideas of others.
He even had the birds killed in the Vatican gardens because they disturbed him.
Galileo optimistically came to Rome in 1624
and had six long talks in the gardens with the Pope.
Galileo hoped that the intellectual Pope would withdraw, or at least bypass,
the prohibition of 1616 of the world picture of Copernicus.
It turned out that Urban Vlll would not consider that.
But Galileo still hoped, and the officials of the papal court expected,
that Urban Vlll would let the new scientific ideas flow quietly into the Church,
until, imperceptibly, they replaced the old.
After all, that was how the heathen ideas of Ptolemy and Aristotle
had become Christian doctrine in the first place.
So, Galileo went on believing that the Pope was on his side,
within the limits set by his office, until it came to the testing time.
And then he turned out to be most profoundly mistaken.
POPE URBAN Vlll: His Holiness charges the Inqisitor at Florence
to inform Galileo that he is to appear at Rome before the Holy Office
The Pope, Maffeo Barberini the friend, Urban Vlll,
has personally delivered him into the hands of the Holy Office of the Inquisition,
whose process is irreversible.
This is the Dominican cloister of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva,
where the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition
proceeded against those whose allegiance was in question.
It had been created by Pope Paul III in 1542, to stem the spread of Reformation doctrines.
The rules of procedure were strict and exact.
They had been formalised in 1588
and they were, of course, not the rules of a court.
The prisoner did not have a copy either of the charges or of the evidence.
He had no counsel to defend him.
There were ten judges at the trial of Galileo.
All cardinals and all Dominicans.
One of them was the Pope's brother and another was the Pope's nephew.
The trial was conducted by the Commissar General of the Inquisition.
The hall in which Galileo was tried is now part of the post office of Rome.
But in 1633, it looked like this.
Exactly like this.
A ghostly committee room in a club for gentlemen.
We also know exactly the steps by which Galileo came to this pass.
It had begun on those walks in the garden with the new Pope in 1624.
It was clear that the Pope would not allow the Copernican doctrine to be avowed openly.
But there was another way.
And next year, Galileo began to write a Dialogue On The Great World Systems... which one speaker put objections to the theory
and the two other speakers, who were rather cleverer, answered them.
Because of course, the theory of Copernicus is not self-evident.
It's not clear how the earth can fly around the sun once a year.
Or spin on its own axis once a day and we not fly off.
It's not clear how a weight can be dropped from a high tower
and fall vertically to a spinning earth.
These objections Galileo answered, as it were, on behalf of Copernicus, long dead.
But on his own behalf,
Galileo put into the book that sense that all his science gives us,
from the time that as a young man
he had first put his hand on his pulse and watched a pendulum.
The sense that it's the laws here on earth
which reach out into the universe and burst right through the crystal spheres.
The book was finished in 1630, and Galileo did not find it easy to get it licensed.
The censors were sympathetic.
But it soon became clear that there were more-powerful forces against the book.
Well, in the end, Galileo collected no fewer than four imprimaturs.
And, early in 1632,
the book was published in Florence.
It was an instant success and, for Galileo, instant disaster.
At once, from Rome, the thunder came, stop the presses, buy back all the copies,
which by then had been sold out.
And Galileo must come to Rome to answer for it.
And nothing that he said could countermand that.
His age, he was now nearly 70,
his illness, which was genuine...
...the patronage of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Nothing counted. He must come to Rome.
It was clear that the Pope himself had taken great umbrage at the book.
He had found at least one passage which he had insisted on,
put in the book in the mouth of the man
who really makes rather the impression of a simpleton.
It may be that the Pope felt that to be a caricature, certainly he felt insulted.
The Pope felt that Galileo had hoodwinked him and that his own censors had let him down.
So, on the 12th April, 1633, Galileo was brought into this room, sat at this table,
and answered the questions from the Inquisitor.
The questions were addressed to him courteously,
in the intellectual atmosphere which reigned in the Inquisition,
in Latin in the third person.
How was he brought to Rome?
Is this his book?
How did he come to write it?
What is in his book?
All those, Galileo expected. He expected to defend the book.
But then came a question which he did not expect.
Were you in Rome particularly in the year...
INQUISITOR: particlarly in the year 1616 and for what prpose?
GALILEO: I was in Rome in the year 1616 becase
hearing dobts expressed on the opinibns of Nicolas Copernics
I came to find ot what views it was sitable to hold
INQUISITOR: Let him say what was decided and made known to him then
GALILEO: In the month of Febrary 1616
Cardinal Bellarmine said to me that to hold the opinibn of Copernics as a proven fact
was contrary to the sacred scriptres
Therefore it cold be neither held nor defended
Bt it cold be taken and sed as an hypothesis
In confirmatibn of this I have a certificate from Cardinal Bellarmine given on May 26th 1616
INQUISITOR: Whether at that time any other precept was given him by someone else
GALILEO: I do not remember anything else that was said or enjoined pon me
INQUISITOR: If it is stated to him that in the presence of witnesses
there is the instrctibn that he mst not hold or defend the said opinibn
or teach it in any way whatsoever let him now say whether he remembers
GALILEO: I remember that the instrctibn was
that I was neither to hold nor to defend the said opinibn
The other two particlars that is neither to teach nor consider in any way whatsoever
they are not stated in the certificate on which I rely
INQUISITOR: After the aforesaid precept did he obtain permissibn to write the book?
GALILEO: I did not seek permissibn to write this book
becase I consider that I did not disobey the instrctibns I had been given
INQUISITOR: When he asked permissibn to print the book
did he disclose the command of the sacred congregatibn of which we spoke?
GALILEO: I said nothing when I soght permissibn to pblish
not having in the book either held or defended the opinibn
Galileo has a signed document which says
he is forbidden only to hold or defend the theory of Copernicus,
which means as if it were a proven matter of fact.
That was a prohibition laid on every Catholic at the time.
The Inquisition claims that there is a document which prohibits Galileo, and Galileo alone,
to teach in any way whatsoever.
He doesn 't have to produce this document.
It's not part of the rules of procedure.
But we have the document.
It's in the secret archives, and it's manifestly a forgery, or at the most charitable,
a draft for some suggested meeting which was rejected.
It's not signed by Cardinal Bellarmine.
It's not signed by the witnesses.
It's not signed by the notary, it's not signed by Galileo to show that he received it.
Did the Inquisition really have to stoop to the use of legal quibbles
between "hold or defend", "teach in any way whatsoever",
in the face of documents which could not have stood up in any court of law?
Yes, it did. There was nothing else to do.
The book had been published. It had been passed by several censors.
The Pope could rage at the censors now.
He ruined his own Secretary.
But some remarkable public display had to be made
to show that the book was to be condemned.
It was on the index for 200 years because of some deceit practiced by Galileo.
The court did not meet again.
The trial ended here.
That is to say, Galileo was twice more brought into this room
and allowed to testify on his own behalf, but no questions were asked of him.
The verdict was reached at a meeting of the Congregation of the Holy Office,
over which the Pope presided, which laid down absolutely what was to be done.
The dissident scientist was to be humiliated,
authority was to be shown large, not only in action, but in intention.
Galileo was to retract...
...and he was to be shown the instruments of torture as if they were to be used.
What that threat meant to a man who had started life as a doctor,
we can judge by listening to the testimony of a contemporary
who had actually suffered the rack and survived it.
That was William Linlithgow, an Englishman.
LINLITHGOW: broght to the rack then monted on the top of it
My legs were drawn to the two sides of the three-planked rack
A cord was tied abot my ankles
As the levers bent forward the main force of my knees against the two planks
brst asnder the sinews of my hams and the lids of my knees were crshed
My lips were shivering my groans were vehement
and blood sprang from my arms broken sinews hands and knees
Being loosed from these pinnacles of pain I was hand-fast set on the floor
with this incessant imploratibn "Confess"
BRONOWSKl: Galileo was not tirtured.
He was only threatened with torture twice.
His imagination would do the rest.
That was the object of the trial,
to show men of imagination that they were not immune
from the process of fear that was irreversible.
GALILEO: I Galileo Galilei
aged 70 years kneeling before yo most eminent and reverent Lord Cardinals
Inqisitors General against heretical depravity
wrote and printed a book in which I addce argments in favor of the false opinibn
that the sn is the centre of the world and immovable
and that the earth is not the centre of the world and moves
For this case I have been prononced by the Holy Office
to be vehemently sspected of heresy
Therefore I abjre crse and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies
and I swear that in ftre I will never again say or assert verbally or in writing
anything that might frnish occasibn for a similar sspicibn
Bt shold I know any person sspected of heresy
I will denonce him to this Holy Office
BRONOWSKl: Galileo was confined for the rest of his life... his villa, here in Arcetri, at some distance from Florence,
under strict house arrest.
The Pope was implacable.
Nothing to be published,
the forbidden doctrine not to be discussed.
Galileo was not even to talk to Protestants.
The result was silence among Catholic scientists.
Galileo's greatest contemporary, Rene Descartes, stopped publishing in France
and finally went to Sweden.
Galileo made up his mind to do one thing.
He was going to write the book that the trial had interrupted.
The book on the new sciences,
by which he meant physics, not in the stars, but concerning matter here on earth.
He finished it in 1636,
that's three years after the trial, an old man of 72.
Of course, he couldn 't get it published,
until finally some Protestants, in Leiden in the Netherlands,
printed it two years later.
By that time, Galileo was totally blind.
He writes of himself,
"I, who enlarged the universe a hundred thousand times,
am now shrunk to the space of my own body."
Among those who came to see him was the young poet, John Milton, from England,
preparing for his life's work.
It's ironic that by the time Milton came to write the great poem, 30 years later,
he was totally blind, he also was dependant on his children to finish it.
Milton, at the end of his life, identified himself with Samson Agonistes,
Samson among the Philistines.
"Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves",
who destroyed the Philistine Empire at the moment of his death.
And that's what Galileo did against his own will.
The effect of the trial and of the imprisonment
was to put a total stop to the scientific tradition in the Mediterranean.
From now on, the scientific revolution moved to northern Europe.
Galileo died, still a prisoner in this house, in 1642.
On Christmas Day of the same year, in England,
Isaac Newton was born.