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Owen Gingerich To Deliver Next Frontiers Lecture

Owen Gingerich Galileo

Owen Gingerich will give a public talk, "Galileo: Hero or Heretic?" at IfA Manoa auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on January 19. Photo courtesy O. Gingerich.

Owen Gingerich will deliver the next Frontiers of Astronomy Community Lecture at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 19 in the IfA Manoa Auditorium. His illustrated lecture will be "Galileo: Hero or Heretic?" The event is open to the public, but seating is limited. Admission and parking are free.

Gingerich is Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University. His research interests have ranged from the recomputation of an ancient Babylonian mathematical table to the interpretation of stellar spectra. He is also a coauthor of two successive standard models for the solar atmosphere.

In the early 1600s, Catholic theologians argued that Psalm 104 required a fixed Earth and a geocentric cosmology. After his pioneering telescopic discoveries, Galileo Galilei suggested that "the Bible tells how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go." When he defended the heliocentric system too vigorously, he was forced by the Inquisition to disclaim such beliefs and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. Gingerich will examine the intellectual controversy over the Book of Nature versus the Book of Scripture, novel scientific interpretations versus a highly literal reading of the Bible. He will explain how Galileo abandoned the traditional ways of establishing scientific truth, and by so doing, effectively changed the rules of science forever.

In the past three decades, Gingerich has become a leading authority on the seventeenth-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler and on Nicholas Copernicus, the sixteenth-century cosmologist who proposed the heliocentric system. His most recent book is The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus, which describes Gingerich's 30-year search for all extant copies Copernicus' book De Revolutionibus, to prove, via notes written in the margins, that this book was indeed read by the contemporaries of Copernicus.