Galileo's Influence on Renaissance Literature

Although Galileo Galilei would spend his life as an engineer and astronomer, his primary education was in the liberal arts of music, drawing, poetry and rhetoric. His father, Vincenzo, was a musical theorist who wrote a book disputing Ptolemaic systems of lute tuning, and the young Galileo grew up enjoying the intellectual freedom of Renaissance Italy. Galileo published "The Starry Messenger" in 1610, based on his discovery of Jupiter's moons. It sold out within days, and Galileo's telescope became a sensation across Europe. He had shrewdly named the moons after four powerful Medici brothers of Florence and was invited to the Medici court as a philosopher and mathematician.

Galileo, the Author

Galileo profoundly influenced Renaissance literature, as well as science. In 1623, Galileo published "The Assayer," a book in which he made a famous claim that nature is a book written in the language of mathematics. He also composed poetry and delivered inspired lectures at the University of Pisa. He showed an interest in perspective and accuracy in art portrayals. English poet John Milton visited Galileo in 1638, when the scientist-writer lived under house arrest by the Vatican. The meeting evidently left a deep impression on the young Milton, as references to Galileo's telescope appear in "Paradise Lost."