Hero’s of Science – Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno is an Italian philosopher, mathematician and astrologer who was seriously ahead of his time, 392 years ahead to be precise. He was born in 1548 and spent most of his time learning and traveling, filling his mind with as much knowledge as he could find. So what make him so ahead of his time?

Well in an age that some people still believed the earth was flat and the majority of scholars followed the geocentric model of our solar system (Earth is at the centre), Giordano had some very futuristic views. In fact he is credited as the first recorded person to theorize that the stars were distant suns and even more outrageously at the time he was sure there were other planets that orbited them, some even containing life.

Although these thoughts and theories would be common place and mundane by today’s standards, in the 16th century these were tantamount to treason and soon he was on trial for heresy by the Catholic Church.

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A Scene from Cosmos – A must watch series

In Rome, Bruno’s trial lasted seven years during which time he was imprisoned in the Tower of Nona. Some important documents about the trial are lost now, but others have been preserved, among them a summary of the proceedings that was rediscovered in 1940. The numerous charges against Bruno were as follows

–           Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers;

–          Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation;

–          Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ;

–          Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus;

–          Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass;

–          Blaming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;

–          Believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;

–          Dealing in magic’s and divination.

So apart from being well ahead of his time this poor man was instead burned at the stake from crimes against the church.  This just goes to show how important free speech is and why everything should be done to protect free speech in our society, as even though the west lives in different times there are still many places in the world where you would be killed for saying a lot less.

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The moment before he was executed

So it did take quite a lot of time for the scientific community to vindicate Giordano Bruno and I am happy to tell you that 392 years after his execution, the first exo-planet was confirmed in 1992 with the discovery of several terrestrial-mass planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12. The first confirmation of an exo-planet orbiting a main-sequence star was made in 1995, when a giant planet was found in a four-day orbit around the nearby star 51 Pegasi.

It just goes to show that the craziest of theorise can still be right.

Stay Curious – C.Costigan

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