Galileo Revisited

The Galileo Affair in Context

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Paschal Scotti
  • Ignatius Press
    , August
     312 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Library shelves are filled with some wonderful books on Galileo and the Galileo affair, the series of vicissitudes that brought the great Italian polymath to face the Roman Inquisition. Scholarly production on the subject has been  rather productive for a few centuries now, so why buy another book, or even write a new one in the first place?

Dom Paschal Scotti’s Galileo Revisited: The Galileo Affair in Context represents an unusual addition to this scholarship. This volume has something fresh and very useful to tell us. Conceived as an effort to provide readers with the context in which Galileo’s story took place, the book offers useful information for both the expert and the layperson, while reflecting on the controversial relationship between science and Christianity. 

Scotti begins with an overview of the sociopolitical situation on the Italian peninsula at the time of Galileo, followed by insights into the status of the Church, as well as contemporary research in astronomy and astrology at a time when the Pisan (or, I should say, the Florentine) scientist was being elevated from obscurity to celebrity. Most of the available books on Galileo don’t provide this sort of background information, forcing curious readers to hunt down data from a variety of disparate texts to make sense of the triumphs and controversies related to this central figure in the development of modern science. 

Galileo Revisited complements the current literature by adding a practical compendium, and the book is exquisite to read. However, at points the author may seem to lose a bit himself in the background story. And despite the main topic of the volume, the recounting of Galileo’s life and trial doesn’t  really take up most of the narrative. However, as Scotti insists, the account of the Galileo affair goes far beyond Galileo and his relations with the Church. This is a story of how the intersections among science, culture, and Christianity have changed, and keep changing over time.

Thus, Galileo Revisited may not be the ultimate biography of Galileo, but—as the author intended—this is a wonderfully written, erudite volume on the context surrounding Galileo and the Galileo affair. General readers will encounter a pleasant read, and an effective introduction to the subject. Experts will discover plenty of interesting tidbits about the political, scientific, and religious milieu encompassing the rise of Galileo. There are also instructive reflections to be found herein on how science and scholastic learning relate to each other. 

Scotti’s book can make for a valuable resource in undergraduate classes on Galileo, and it may serve as an essential introduction in upper-level university courses. Galileo Revisited has a lot to say. The volume is strongly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Daniele Macuglia is Lecturer in Early Modern Europe at the Art Institute at the University of Chicago.

Date of Review: 
May 31, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Paschal Scotti, a monk at Portsmouth Abbey in Rhode Island, was ordained a priest in 1989 and teaches at his monastery's prep school, Portsmouth Abbey School, in the History and Humanities departments. He has a Licentiate in Canon Law (J.C.L) from Catholic University of America. Besides various journal and encyclopedia articles, he has a written a study of the Edwardian English Catholic editor, Wilfrid Ward.


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