A Book Mystery

Last Friday night I was privileged to speak at a virtual meeting of the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club. It is always a joy to gather with them. While I’ve talked with them before about Galileo, Kepler, star atlases, and many other topics in the history of astronomy, this was something a little different: “A Book Mystery: The New Galileo Affair.” Do you like mysteries? We played the role of book detectives exploring a still-unfolding Galileo affair. Here’s the abstract sent out in the OKCAC newsletter:

Galileo has been in the news again, or at least his books have. Over the last decade and a half, suspicions have been raised regarding several different copies of Galileo’s Starry Messenger (1610), the first published report of telescopic discoveries, as well as Galileo’s Compasso (1606), a manual for his engineering compass. The History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma holds first editions of both works. Both OU copies are marked by Galileo in his own handwriting. How have the suspicions and even charges of forgery affected interest in the OU copies? In this presentation, Kerry Magruder, Curator of the History of Science Collections, will recount the story from his own point of view as it unfolded over the past 15 years. This book mystery will give you a unique perspective on the latest “Galileo affair.”

The broadband connection was poor that night due to the onset of Oklahoma winds that began to blow through the area just as the talk was getting started. But my thanks to Danny, who kept things going despite the power flickers that beset us. And Danny edited out the down times when we were restarting our computers, routers, Zoom connections, etc.

The video records the complete monthly meeting of the OKCAC. My presentation begins about 21 minutes in.

Watch at youTube.

See also the PBS website for the documentary “Galileo’s Moon.” This program includes interviews with many of the figures mentioned here. Watching my talk first may help you get more out of the documentary.

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