Renaissance learning shaped Galileo’s genius

In Galileo’s Muse, Mark A. Peterson navigates the multiple streams that flowed together to form the great mathematician’s genius

William R. Shea

GALILEO was professor of mathematics and physics at the University of Padua, Italy, from the end of the 16th century, a time when ancient learning was being recovered.

In Galileo’s Muse, Mark A. Peterson is anxious to show how much the great man owed to the legacy of Greek science, Roman technology, and the arts. Providing a lively overview of Renaissance poetry, painting, music, architecture and mathematics, he argues that these subjects must have been a source of inspiration for Galileo.

There can be no doubt that Galileo considered Greek philosopher Archimedes a towering figure of the ancient world. Although not completely unknown in the Middle Ages, it was not until the 16th century that Archimedes’s works received serious and scholarly attention. Their rediscovery opened a fresh vista on the world; their novelty fascinating to a young man who had been subjected to the tedium of the spent forces of Aristotlianism. Galileo proudly walked in the footsteps of Archimedes, often describing himself as his follower.

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