Galileo Galilei wrote under a pseudonym – Galileo revealed as the author of a 1606 treatise on astronomy

Under another name: The famous scholar Galileo Galilei is the real author of a treatise on astronomy published in 1606 under the pseudonym Alimberto Mauro. This is now revealed by research by an Italian historian. Accordingly, there are not only striking content and stylistic similarities with Galileo’s other work, the scholar also referred directly to criticism of this work in his notes – and apparently took this very personally.

Galileo Galilei is considered a pioneer of modern science and a revolutionary in astronomy: As a mathematician and physicist, he established the laws of gravity that were later taken up and further developed by Isaac Newton. As an astronomer, he discovered the moons of Jupiter and the phase change of Venus and provided evidence for the heliocentric world view. But this brought the universal scholar into conflict with the church – despite his attempts to get his way self-censorship and protect pseudonyms.

In the “Considerazioni Astronomiche” a “new star” is described, among other things – a supernova visible in the sky in 1604. © historical

Astronomy treatise with unknown author

Now it turns out that Galielo Galilei was probably also the author of the astronomy treatise “Considerazioni Astronomiche”, published in 1606. This work speculates, among other things, whether there could be mountains on the moon, which physical laws could direct the apparently irregular orbits of some celestial bodies, and some current observations of the sky are described. The official author of this work is Alimberto Mauri, a name that has long been considered a pseudonym.

Even during his lifetime, Galileo was suspected of being the true author of this astronomy text. Thus, Galileo’s colleague at the University of Padua described the supposed author Alimberto Mauri as someone who only pretended to be an astronomer but was actually more of a professional mathematician – like Galileo at the time. A supposedly contemporary letter discovered a few years ago with a reference to Galileo’s authorship seemed to confirm this, but has since turned out to be a forgery.

Controversy over a “new star”

In order to create more clarity, the historian Matteo Cosci from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice evaluated numerous historical documents, some of which were still unpublished, that were kept in the central national library in Florence. Among them were numerous records and notes by Galileo, in which he recorded, among other things, observations and thoughts on a “new star” discovered in 1604 – a supernova visible to the naked eye in the sky.

This “new star” caused heated debates among scholars at the time as to what it might be. Because according to current, church-compliant teaching, the firmament was considered to be a largely unchangeable “shell” around the geocentric universe at that time. Galilei, however, saw this differently even then and argued about it above all with the Florentine philosopher Lodovico Delle Colombe. In Galileo’s notes, now evaluated by Cosci, there are numerous comments and replies to Delle Colombe.

Telltale references

The exciting thing, however, is that among these notes there are also some in which Galileo responds to criticism of the Considerazioni Astronomiche – and speaks of himself as an author. Among other things, he lists passages “in which Lodovico Delle Colombe speaks of me with contempt”. However, as Cosci found out, these passages refer to passages by Delle Colombe in which he does not attack Galileo, but Alimberto Mauri – the supposed author of the Considerazioni Astronomiche.

So why did Galileo feel personally attacked by this criticism? According to the historian Cosci, this leaves only one conclusion: Galileo Galilei was the true author of the astronomy treatise and Alimberto Mauri was his pseudonym. This is supported by striking parallels in content and style between Mauri’s treatise and Galileo’s texts, as Cosci reports after extensive re-analysis of the texts.

Galileo Galilei is “the Moor”

And there is another clue: Lodovico Delle Colombe addressed Galileo in his replies (“Riposte”) several times as “Mr. Mask”, “a mask named Mauri” and “Cecco” – the latter was a pseudonym that had already been revealed at the time and which Galileo used for used some astronomical texts. In the archives there is also an edition of the “Riposte” in which a student wrote the name Galileo next to these references. Also suspicious: the release for printing – imprimatur – of the astronomy work came from a secretary of the Grand Duke of Venice who was close to Galileo.

According to Cosci, all of this indicates that Galileo Galilei was actually hiding behind the pseudonym Alimberto Mauri. Apparently the scholar had published this astronomy treatise under a different name because he didn’t want to annoy his patrons in the Republic of Venice. The Considerazioni Astronomiche were dedicated to the Pope’s Treasurer in Rome and thus to a member of the Roman Curia, with which Venice was at enmity at the time.

Should Galileo’s authorship be confirmed, then the Considerazioni Astronomiche broadens our view of the famous scholar’s early astronomical research. “His later work Sidereus Nuncius tells us when, how and what Galileo observed with his telescopes,” comments Peter Barker of the University of Oklahoma. “But the perspective of the Considerazioni Astronomiche shows us why he made these observations.”

Those: Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice

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