Objective: Students will become familiar with the Trial of Galileo Galilei. Students will understand who Galileo was, and how the controversy around his ideas about the solar system reflected the conflict of ideas in a time of change. Students will examine how other scientists shared views like Galileo’s but avoided some of the controversy. Extension activities include developing a Mock Trial based on the Galileo case.
1 History Benchmark A S01A. History. Explain connections between the ideas of the Enlightenment and changes in the relationships between citizens and their governments. (09-10)
1. Explain how Enlightenment ideas produced enduring effects on political, economic and cultural institutions, including challenges to religious authority, monarchy and absolutism. (09)
Students will apply knowledge of persuasive techniques, primary sources, and historical background study of the time period to defend or convict Galileo at the Inquisition. Students will become familiar with the Trial of Galileo Galilei and will achieve mastery understanding of who Galileo was, and how his life and trial impacted the Enlightenment.
Before beginning the lesson, students should have completed an introduction to the Scientific Revolution, including the basic theories of Copernicus and Galileo, the causes of the Scientific Revolution and a basic understanding of how new scientific theories differed from the Medieval beliefs of the universe. See other lesson plans on this website to Introduce the Scientific Revolution.
Students read the following documents (found above): Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615.” And Documents from Galileo’s Trial, especially the “Indictment” and “Abjuration.”
Together, teacher and students discuss the "Indictment" and fill out the Document Analysis Worksheet: Galileo Indictment.
Students read the other documents on their own and fill out a a Document Analysis Worksheet: Religion and Science for each.
(The class may be divided into groups to look at more documents, such as Galileo’s Defense, and his various Depositions, above.)
Students will now look at how other scientists addressed the issue of science and religion. The theme that these documents should make clear to students is that scientists of this era did not attempt to destroy the power of the Catholic Church. The Primary sources should give students insight into how European thinkers were interested in scientific truth, which they did not see as contradictory to religious belief.
Divide the class into groups to examine these documents:
Each group should complete a Document Analysis Worksheet: Religion & Science
Groups report on their document and what they discovered in it.
As a class, discuss the following questions:
Why did Galileo face the Inquisition and why was he forced to recant but Copernicus, Kepler, and Bacon were not?
What other arguments could have helped Galileo?
What ideas about the relationship between religion and science are revealed by these different scientists?
Consider again the idea of change: What are the old and new values that are coming into conflict, based on these sources? (think about issues such authority, sources of knowledge,and the individual in society, for example).
Assessment. Administer the folloiwng short-answer exam to the students: Trial of Galileo Test