E pur si muove!

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The Italian phrase "E pur si muove" or "Eppur si muove" means And yet it moves (Nonetheless, it moves). It is pronounced [epˈpuɾ si ˈmwɔːve].

Legend has it that the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei muttered this phrase after being forced to recant in 1633, before the Inquisition, his belief that the Earth moves around the Sun.

At the time of Galileo's trial, the dominant view among theologians, philosophers and scientists was that the Earth is stationary, indeed the center of the universe. Galileo's adversaries brought the charge of heresy, then punishable by death, before the Inquisition. Since Galileo recanted, he was only put under house arrest until his death, nine years after the trial.

There is no contemporary evidence that Galileo muttered this expression at his trial; it would certainly have been highly imprudent for him to have done so. The earliest biography of Galileo, written by his disciple Vincenzio Viviani, does not mention this phrase, and depicts Galileo as having sincerely recanted. The legend first became widely published in Querelles Littéraires (1761), recounting a tale published by an Italian living in London in 1757 (124 years after the supposed utterance).[1]

In 1911, the famous line was found on a Spanish painting owned by a Belgian family, dated 1643 or 1645. The painting is obviously ahistorical, since it depicts Galileo in a dungeon, but nonetheless proves that some variants of the "E pur si muove" legend had been circulating for over a century before it was published[2], perhaps even in his own lifetime.

Although the Galileo affair resulted in a temporary reverse for the cause of heliocentrism, the work of Galileo, Nicholas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton ultimately vindicated the theory.

[edit] Cultural references

The German symphonic metal band Haggard's concept album Eppur Si Muove, is based on Galileo's biography.

The sentence, E PUR SI MUOVE, appears after the preface to the "Terma", a fourth season episode of the television series The X-Files.

A fifth season episode of the television series The West Wing is titled "Eppur Si Muove".

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Small Gods the phrase The turtle moves is used as a rallying cry by an organization of freethinking philosophers fighting a dogmatic establishment.

The first track on Enigma's sixth album A Posteriori is entitled "Eppur Si Muove".

In the 19th century Spanish realist novel Fortunata y Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós, the character Aparisi uses the phrase "e pur si muove" erroneously, thinking it means "por si acaso" (just in case).

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ A. Rupert Hall, "Galileo nel XVIII secolo," Rivista di filosofia, 15 (Turin, 1979), pp. 375-78, 83.
  2. ^ Stillman Drake, Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography, (Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2003) p. 357.
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