Starting Points

The Trial of Galileo

Galileo Trial LL

The story of Galileo’s trial in 1633 intertwines two crucial earlier episodes:

1. Galileo’s encounter with the Inquisition in 1616; and

2. Publication of Galileo’s Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World in 1632. 

Learn more about them in this learning leaflet.


Discorso particolare intorno all'unisono

Vincenzo Musical Score

Vincenzo Galilei was among the first music theorists to advocate for a new system of tuning based on performance, instead of the mathematical principles of music set fourth by Pythagoras. Pythagorean music theory bases pitch on the mathematical proportions of dividing a string. Vincenzo's primary problem with this system is that, although it is great for the mathematician and the music theorist, it is impractical for the performer. All music based on this particular system of tuning would inevitably sound out of tune and unpleasant. In this learning leaflet learn about the tuning systems in the late-Renaissance period.


Della Porta: Natural Magic

Natural Magic LL

Giambattista della Porta was one of the most widely known European Renaissance magicians. In 1558, at the age of twenty three, the first edition of his book Natural Magic was printed. Due to its popularity and Della Porta's increased fame, he published an expanded second edition in 1589, increasing the original four books to twenty books. Learn more in this learning leaflet.


Six Cosmological Systems: Phases of Venus

Kircher-Cosmological Systems-Venus

It is often thought that Galileo's discovery of the phases of venus demonstrated the contested heliocentric model of the universe. However, such an understanding is overly simplistic of the early modern account of astronomy. Use this learning leaflet to learn more.


Phases of Venus: Riccioli, New Almagest

Phases of Venus-Riccioli

The phases of Venus were an item of discussion in early modern Europe as scientists sought to determine whether it was evidence of the heliocentric system. Yet among the scientists it was anything but conclusive that this evidence proved the sun-centered universe. Learn more in this learning leaflet.


Pythagorean Solids: Five Regular Solids

Pythagorean Solids Learning Leaflet

Can you identify the five regular solids? 

Throughout history the regular solids were studied with keen interest by astronomers, mathematicians, artists, architects and philosophers. The Pythagoreans proved that there are only five regular solids: the cube, triangle, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron. 


Kepler's Cosmic Dance suite

Jonathan A. Annis

For the Galileo’s World exhibition, Jonathan A. Annis, a graduate student in the OU School of Music, worked as co-curator of the Music of the Spheres gallery. In this role he composed a suite for harp, flute (doubling alto flute) and oboe (doubling English horn) entirely comprised of musical themes from Kepler’s Harmonices mundi.  Annis arranged the themes, but they derive from Kepler’s musical description of the harmonic law. In this piece, Kepler’s universe becomes a cosmic dance. Visitors to the Music of the Spheres gallery during the Galileo's World exhibition were able to listen to a short excerpt of the suite on an iPad kiosk.  CC-by-sa-nc.


Relativity of Motion: The Moving Ship Thought Experiment

Relativity of Motion Learning Leaflet

Why do we have no eyewitness reports refuting Aristotle's physics? 

Galileo's "Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World" includes a discussion about dropping balls from the mast of both a moving ship and a ship at rest in order to test the theory of inertia. If sailors actually had performed the experiment, believing with Aristotle that a cannonball dropped from the mast would fall harmlessly into the wake of the ship, why were no reports made to the contrary? This OER features a cartoon answering that question.


Augustine: The Bible and Science

Augustine-The Bible Science Learning Leaflet

How did Augustine understand the relationship between the Bible and Science?

Saint Augustine discussed the relationship between religion and science in the 5th century. Such views became highly influential throughout the history of science for those interested in explaining the relationship between religion and science. This learning leaflet provides a brief introduction to Augustine's views. Also included is a handout with quotations from Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Isaac Newton regarding the relationship between religion and science.