Galileo's trial in 1633 before the Roman Inquisition is one of the most frequently mentioned topics in the history of science. Galileo's encounter with the Catholic Church was not only a major turning point in the history of western culture; it is the paradigm case of the clash between the institutional authority of religion and the authority of scientific reason, a clash that has helped to define the modern era.
Blackwell's new contribution to "the Galileo affair" concerns the official theological position against Galileo. The centerpiece of his project is the treatise entitled Tractatus syllepticus, written by Melchior Inchofer, S.J., whose judgment of the orthodoxy of Galileo's Dialogue had been requested earlier by the Holy Office and was then incorporated into the proceedings of the trial. At the time, Inchofer's judgment against Galileo's book was both detailed and harsh. That judgment formed the basis for Inchofer's subsequent Tractatus, the first English translation of which is included in this volume. Inchofer's text provides a new and fascinating way of looking at the defense of the guilty verdict. Blackwell's analysis of this material greatly enriches our knowledge of Galileo and his trial.
Both legal and theological behind-the-scenes aspects of Galileo's trial are discussed. Because of a weak legal case, a plea bargain was arranged, extrajudicially, then sabotaged in the Holy Office before the final decision of the case. Through his close scrutiny of the specifics of the trial, Blackwell renders a picture that is more complex, and ominous, than the usual portrayal of the trial.
"Embedded here is a real jewel: Blackwell's powerfully illuminating and sobering portrayal of Galileo's fraught relations with the Jesuit astronomer Christopher Scheiner. I know of no other account that shows with such clarity the theological constraints that bound the Catholic protagonists in the infamous 'Galileo affair' and how behind the scenes these constraints evolved and hardened." —Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
"An original contribution to Galilean studies, Richard J. Blackwell's Behind the Scenes at Galileo's Trial is both an in-depth study of the trial and a careful and enlightening examination of the roles played by that understudied figure, Melchior Inchofer, and the famed Jesuit astronomer, Christopher Scheiner, in Galileo's condemnation. It is also a boon to have here English translations of Inchofer's Tractatus syllepticus and Jesuit works, including an excerpt from Scheiner's Prodromus." —Irving Kelter, University of St. Thomas, Houston
"This book is not the usual kind of Galileo fare. Blackwell makes no attempt to tell the whole story, but meticulously and judiciously analyzes background events, texts, and personalities in ways that illuminate and clarify the course and outcome of Galileo's campaign on behalf of heliocentrism and the trial with which it ended. Appendices include relevant texts in translation, as well as Jesuit procedural rules that played a central role in the drama. This is an outstanding contribution to Galileo scholarship." —David C. Lindberg, Hilldale Professor Emeritus of the History of Science, University of Wisconsin