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Setting Aside All Authority

Setting Aside All Authority

Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo

Christopher M. Graney

Setting Aside All Authority is an important account and analysis of seventeenth-century scientific arguments against the Copernican system. Christopher M. Graney challenges the long-standing ideas that opponents of the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus and Galileo were primarily motivated by religion or devotion to an outdated intellectual tradition, and that they were in continual retreat in the face of telescopic discoveries.

Graney calls on newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that science, not religion, played an important, and arguably predominant, role in the opposition to the Copernican system. Anti-Copernicans, building on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, were in fact able to build an increasingly strong scientific case against the heliocentric system at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, several decades after the advent of the telescope. The scientific case reached its apogee, Graney argues, in the 1651 New Almagest of the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who used detailed telescopic observations of stars to construct a powerful scientific argument against Copernicus.

Setting Aside All Authority includes the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and excerpts from Riccioli’s reports regarding his experiments with falling bodies.

“The most exciting history of science book so far this century, Graney’s brilliant portrait of Riccioli and his science—amiable but punchy, rigorous but accessible—ought to stimulate a complete revision of what we thought we knew about the Copernican Revolution. Rarely have scientific analysis, historical scholarship, and writerly flair come together with such force.” — Dennis Danielson, author of Paradise Lost and the Cosmological Revolution

“For students of the Copernican revolution, here is an unexpected contribution that will force the experts to revise their lecture notes. Christopher Graney (with translation assistance from Christina Graney) has almost single-handedly revised the traditional story about Jesuit Giambattista Riccioli’s list of pro and con arguments for the heliocentric cosmology. Big surprise: in 1651 the geocentric cosmology had science on its side.” — Owen Gingerich, author of God’s Planet

“Christopher M. Graney’s Setting Aside All Authority makes a fine contribution to the history of science and especially the history of astronomy. The case Graney presents for the rationality of denying Copernicanism, as late as the mid-seventeenth century, is cogent, and he presents a good deal of novel historical material that urges a reevaluation of a major figure—Riccioli. The book will interest not only historians but also philosophers of science, and scientists in the relevant specialties (astronomy, physics) together with their students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.” — Peter Barker, University of Oklahoma

ISBN: 978-0-268-02988-3
E-ISBN 978-0-268-15862-0
288 pages
Publication Year: 2015

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Christopher M. Graney is professor of physics at Jefferson Community & Technical College.

“Almost everyone has heard of Nicolaus Copernicus, whose 1543 text, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, espoused the heliocentric (Sun-centered) theory of the solar system. Far fewer are aware of Riccioli, who published in 1651 a massive tome of 1500 pages, the New Almagest, that examined the relative merits of the heliocentric versus the widely held geocentric (Earth-centered) theory for the solar system in 126 arguments from various sources. Geocentrism won with 49 arguments for and 77 against the Copernican theory. Graney (physics, Jefferson Community & Technical College) embarks on an exhaustive study of Riccioli’s work in this book, even including a churchman’s refutation of Galileo. This is not an easy read—portions of the book are in Latin—however, two appendixes and extensive chapter notes make this a valuable reference and research tool. Graney’s account is particularly suited for historians and philosophers of science, or anyone interested in a new perspective on the Sun-Earth controversy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.” — Choice

“A masterfully presented work of seminal scholarship, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations and tables, two appendices, twenty-four pages of notes, an eight page list of works cited, and a fifteen page index. An essential and core addition to academic library Copernican Studies reference collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that Setting Aside All Authority is also available in a Kindle edition . . .”. — Midwest Book Review

“The arguments of both Riccioli and Graney are complicated and subtle. Even so, I had little difficulty following them, thanks to Graney’s lucid prose and clear diagrams. If you think you know Riccioli, or if you want to know him better, pick up this book. Graney’s re-reading of the New Almagest is absolutely convincing, and Setting Aside All Authority is sure to become the standard text on the ‘science vs. science’ debate between Riccioli and the supporters of heliocentrism.” — Sky and Telescope

“[F]or the last decade Graney has been examining the arguments used in the case against heliocentrism . . . The result has been numerous scholarly and popular publications . . . Setting Aside All Authority is the crowning summary of all this activity . . . [a book] well worth reading by those who want a more nuanced understanding of the Copernican Revolution.” — Southern Stars

“Christopher Graney relates this story of the testing of a profoundly important scientific theory in a uniquely engaging style. This accessible presentation of science and history makes this book ideal for undergraduates and recommended for academic libraries.” — Catholic Library World

“Is there something to be gained by assessing the merits of the losing side of a long-settled scientific argument? Christopher Graney’s answer in Setting Aside All Authority is an unequivocal yes, and he takes one of the most celebrated cases of scientific advance—the victory of heliocentrism over geocentrism—to show us. The work contributes to an effort among historians of science to demonstrate how much more genuinely scientific the entire dispute was than is suggested in the conventional story of it as a titanic struggle between the scientifically rational and the religiously superstitious.” — America

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Setting Aside All Authority

Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo

Christopher M. Graney

 Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo
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Setting Aside All Authority is an important account and analysis of seventeenth-century scientific arguments against the Copernican system. Christopher M. Graney challenges the long-standing ideas that opponents of the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus and Galileo were primarily motivated by religion or devotion to an outdated intellectual tradition, and that they were in continual retreat in the face of telescopic discoveries.

Graney calls on newly translated works by anti-Copernican writers of the time to demonstrate that science, not religion, played an important, and arguably predominant, role in the opposition to the Copernican system. Anti-Copernicans, building on the work of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, were in fact able to build an increasingly strong scientific case against the heliocentric system at least through the middle of the seventeenth century, several decades after the advent of the telescope. The scientific case reached its apogee, Graney argues, in the 1651 New Almagest of the Italian Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who used detailed telescopic observations of stars to construct a powerful scientific argument against Copernicus.

Setting Aside All Authority includes the first English translation of Monsignor Francesco Ingoli’s essay to Galileo (disputing the Copernican system on the eve of the Inquisition’s condemnation of it in 1616) and excerpts from Riccioli’s reports regarding his experiments with falling bodies.

“The most exciting history of science book so far this century, Graney’s brilliant portrait of Riccioli and his science—amiable but punchy, rigorous but accessible—ought to stimulate a complete revision of what we thought we knew about the Copernican Revolution. Rarely have scientific analysis, historical scholarship, and writerly flair come together with such force.” — Dennis Danielson, author of Paradise Lost and the Cosmological Revolution

“For students of the Copernican revolution, here is an unexpected contribution that will force the experts to revise their lecture notes. Christopher Graney (with translation assistance from Christina Graney) has almost single-handedly revised the traditional story about Jesuit Giambattista Riccioli’s list of pro and con arguments for the heliocentric cosmology. Big surprise: in 1651 the geocentric cosmology had science on its side.” — Owen Gingerich, author of God’s Planet

“Christopher M. Graney’s Setting Aside All Authority makes a fine contribution to the history of science and especially the history of astronomy. The case Graney presents for the rationality of denying Copernicanism, as late as the mid-seventeenth century, is cogent, and he presents a good deal of novel historical material that urges a reevaluation of a major figure—Riccioli. The book will interest not only historians but also philosophers of science, and scientists in the relevant specialties (astronomy, physics) together with their students at both the undergraduate and graduate level.” — Peter Barker, University of Oklahoma

ISBN: 978-0-268-02988-3

288 pages

“Almost everyone has heard of Nicolaus Copernicus, whose 1543 text, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, espoused the heliocentric (Sun-centered) theory of the solar system. Far fewer are aware of Riccioli, who published in 1651 a massive tome of 1500 pages, the New Almagest, that examined the relative merits of the heliocentric versus the widely held geocentric (Earth-centered) theory for the solar system in 126 arguments from various sources. Geocentrism won with 49 arguments for and 77 against the Copernican theory. Graney (physics, Jefferson Community & Technical College) embarks on an exhaustive study of Riccioli’s work in this book, even including a churchman’s refutation of Galileo. This is not an easy read—portions of the book are in Latin—however, two appendixes and extensive chapter notes make this a valuable reference and research tool. Graney’s account is particularly suited for historians and philosophers of science, or anyone interested in a new perspective on the Sun-Earth controversy. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.” — Choice

“A masterfully presented work of seminal scholarship, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo is enhanced with the inclusion of illustrations and tables, two appendices, twenty-four pages of notes, an eight page list of works cited, and a fifteen page index. An essential and core addition to academic library Copernican Studies reference collections, for personal reading lists it should be noted that Setting Aside All Authority is also available in a Kindle edition . . .”. — Midwest Book Review

“The arguments of both Riccioli and Graney are complicated and subtle. Even so, I had little difficulty following them, thanks to Graney’s lucid prose and clear diagrams. If you think you know Riccioli, or if you want to know him better, pick up this book. Graney’s re-reading of the New Almagest is absolutely convincing, and Setting Aside All Authority is sure to become the standard text on the ‘science vs. science’ debate between Riccioli and the supporters of heliocentrism.” — Sky and Telescope

“[F]or the last decade Graney has been examining the arguments used in the case against heliocentrism . . . The result has been numerous scholarly and popular publications . . . Setting Aside All Authority is the crowning summary of all this activity . . . [a book] well worth reading by those who want a more nuanced understanding of the Copernican Revolution.” — Southern Stars

“Christopher Graney relates this story of the testing of a profoundly important scientific theory in a uniquely engaging style. This accessible presentation of science and history makes this book ideal for undergraduates and recommended for academic libraries.” — Catholic Library World

“Is there something to be gained by assessing the merits of the losing side of a long-settled scientific argument? Christopher Graney’s answer in Setting Aside All Authority is an unequivocal yes, and he takes one of the most celebrated cases of scientific advance—the victory of heliocentrism over geocentrism—to show us. The work contributes to an effort among historians of science to demonstrate how much more genuinely scientific the entire dispute was than is suggested in the conventional story of it as a titanic struggle between the scientifically rational and the religiously superstitious.” — America