One could say, "Better late than never" about the Catholic Church and Galileo Galilei. In 1633, the famed Italian astronomer was forced by Catholic officials to recant his confirmation of Copernicus' theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo had originally incurred the Church's ire by refusing to side with then-prevailing Ptolemaic theory, which stated that the Sun and all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth. In 1992, the Catholic Church officially closed its 13-year investigation into Galileo's trial and house arrest, confirming that Copernicus was correct, while Ptolemy and the Catholic Church were wrong.
But did the Catholic Church ever apologize to Galileo? Well, the Church did acknowledge that Galileo was correct in his theory and removed his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems from the Index, a list of publications banned by the Church. In 1984, after a preliminary report by religious historians and scientists was released, Pope John Paul II said the scientist was "imprudently opposed." For the conservative Catholic Church, that was fairly close to an apology. According to the 1984 investigating commission, the judges who tried the case in 1633 erred because they were unable to separate faith from an old scientific fallacy.
More about Galileo's life:
- Galileo Galilei was a math professor, but he also observed nature, with lasting implications for the study of physics.
- Galileo constructed the telescope that he used to support Copernicus' theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
- Even under house arrest, Galileo continued to write. He wrote Two New Sciences about the strength of materials and the science of motion. It was published in Holland in 1638, not long before his death in 1642.