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Essays: Galileo

Essays by Karen Anderson.png
Illustration by Kacie Brown

Galileo was an astronomer who lived in the early 1600s, a time when religion not only ruled the world but defined it. That definition included the “fact” that the sun and all the stars and planets revolved around the earth. It took the church a long time—long after Galileo’s death—to acknowledge that his theory was correct and the sun was at the center.

Today, it’s easy to think about life in the 1600s and feel superior. We know so much more now.

The Black Plague raged through Europe during Galileo’s lifetime, killing half the population, and no one knew the cause. His daughter sent him a remedy made of “dried figs, nuts, rue leaves and salt,” held together with honey and washed down with wine. “They say it makes a marvelous defense,” she wrote.

We know so much more now, it’s easy to assume we know everything. But I can’t help but wonder what we believe today that will turn out to be just as false as the earth-centered world? As a remedy of figs and honey?

The church made Galileo retract his statements but they couldn’t make the sun revolve around the earth. “Still it moves,” Galileo said about the earth. Still it does.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.