Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, by Galileo Galilei

The Publisher to the Reader

SINCE society is held together by the mutual services which men render one to another, and since to this end the arts and sciences have largely contributed, investigations in these fields have always been held in great esteem and have been highly regarded by our wise forefathers. The larger the utility and excellence of the inventions, the greater has been the honor and praise bestowed upon the inventors. Indeed, men have even deified them and have united in the attempt to perpetuate the memory of their benefactors by the bestowal of this supreme honor.

Praise and admiration are likewise due to those clever intellects who, confining their attention to the known, have discovered and corrected fallacies and errors in many and many a proposition enunciated by men of distinction and accepted for ages as fact. Although these men have only pointed out falsehood and have not replaced it by truth, they are nevertheless worthy of commendation when we consider the well-known difficulty of discovering fact, a difficulty which led the prince of orators to exclaim: Utinam tam facile possem vera reperire, quam falsa convincere.02 And indeed, these latest centuries merit this praise because it is during them that the arts and sciences, discovered by the ancients, have been reduced to so great and constantly increasing perfection through the investigations and experiments of clear-seeing minds. This development is particularly evident in the case of the mathematical sciences. Here, without mentioning various men who have achieved success, we must without hesitation and with the unanimous approval of scholars assign the first place to Galileo Galilei, Member of the Academy of the Lincei. This he deserves not only because he has effectively demonstrated fallacies in many of our current conclusions, as is amply shown by his published works, but also because by means of the telescope (invented in this country but greatly perfected by him) he has discovered the four satellites of Jupiter, has shown us the true character of the Milky Way, and has made us acquainted with spots on the Sun, with the rough and cloudy portions of the lunar surface, with the threefold nature of Saturn, with the phases of Venus and with the physical character of comets. These matters were entirely unknown to the ancient astronomers and philosophers; so that we may truly say that he has restored to the world the science of astronomy and has presented it in a new light.

02 Cicero. de Natura Deorum, I, 91. [Trans.]

Remembering that the wisdom and power and goodness of the Creator are nowhere exhibited so well as in the heavens and celestial bodies, we can easily recognize the great merit of him who has brought these bodies to our knowledge and has, in spite of their almost infinite distance, rendered them easily visible. For, according to the common saying, sight can teach more and with greater certainty in a single day than can precept even though repeated a thousand times; or, as another says, intuitive knowledge keeps pace with accurate definition.

But the divine and natural gifts of this man are shown to best advantage in the present work where he is seen to have discovered, though not without many labors and long vigils, two entirely new sciences and to have demonstrated them in a rigid, that is, geometric, manner: and what is even more remarkable in this work is the fact that one of the two sciences deals with a subject of never-ending interest, perhaps the most important in nature, one which has engaged the minds of all the great philosophers and one concerning which an extraordinary number of books have been written. I refer to motion [moto locale], a phenomenon exhibiting very many wonderful properties, none of which has hitherto been discovered or demonstrated by any one. The other science which he has also developed from its very foundations deals with the resistance which solid bodies offer to fracture by external forces [per violenza], a subject of great utility, especially in the sciences and mechanical arts, and one also abounding in properties and theorems not hitherto observed.

In this volume one finds the first treatment of these two sciences, full of propositions to which, as time goes on, able thinkers will add many more; also by means of a large number of clear demonstrations the author points the way to many other theorems as will be readily seen and understood by all intelligent readers.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/galileo/dialogues/preface2.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17