Celebrating 24 Years on the Web
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “The Superfund legislation... may prove to be as far-reaching and important as any accomplishment of my administration. The reduction of the threat to America's health and safety from thousands of toxic-waste sites will continue to be an urgent�issue �”
more quiz questions >>
Thumbnail of Galileo Galilei (source)
Galileo Galilei
(15 Feb 1564 - 8 Jan 1642)

Italian natural philosopher who believed the Earth revolved around the Sun. For this, he was interrogated by the Inquisition, was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to indefinite imprisonment. For renouncing his former beliefs before the Cardinals that judged him, he was allowed to serve this time instead under house-arrest.

Galileo - Illustrated Quote
“And Yet It Moves”

Did he really say it?

Large (800 x 600 px)

More Galileo science quotes >>

Galileo head and shoulders on starfield, w/earth in orbit around him with quotes “Eppur si muove” (Italian)+“And yet it moves”
By legend (likely not in fact), Galileo quietly whispered this to himself, after his confession.

Animated thumbnail gif of earth in orbit around the sun
“Eppur si muove” (Italian). “It moves, nevertheless.”
— Galileo Galilei
Apocryphal quote - likely false, as explained in Fahie's biography, Galileo, His Life and Work (1903).

Apocryphal is an adjective warning that what is being described has doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as if true. Some sayings take on a life of their own, even though documentation is absent.

In this case, the earliest known printed mention of this legendary phrase, also written as “E pur si muove,” was over 250 years ago, in 1761, in Querelles Littéraires.1 By 1757, it reached an English-language book by Giuseppe Baretti, a literary critic living in London, who included a version of the story, in an annotated bibliography of Italian books. Whereas some early biographers wouldn't let lack of documentation get in the way of telling a good tale, others have been attempting to debunk this myth since over a century ago. John Joseph Fahie put it this way in 1903:

“Another error which early biographers were fond of repeating, but of which a moment's reflection would have shown the absurdity, was that Galileo on rising from his knees after reciting the abjuration muttered Eppur si muove (it moves, nevertheless). Some writers, doubtless to make the story more vraisemblable,2 provide a friend to whom the words are whispered. But consider for a moment the situation: an old man of seventy years, suffering in body, and distressed in mind by the accumulated anguish of a ten months' trial, alone and without support in the midst of that stern assembly of Inquisitors. Is it likely that at such a moment he would have muttered or uttered these words? He must have known that the slightest indication by words or gesture of such a state of mind would have consigned him for life to the deepest dungeons of the Inquisition, if to no worse.”3

Of course, though there is no clear record that he actually voiced “Eppur si muove,” he definitely, if not defiantly, continued to hold this opinion. On 31 Oct 2009, the Vatican finally corrected the record with a “not guilty” finding. Thus ended 359 years of formal condemnation of Galileo for holding the truth that the Earth revolves around the Sun, which for so long had been held against him as a scriptural heresy.

1 L’Abbé Irailh, Querelles Littéraires [“Literary quarrels”] (Paris, 1761), Vol. 3, 49. As cited in a footnote on page 325 in Fahie (see below).
2 Vraisemblable is a French word meaning “plausible”, “probable” or “likely.” Vrai is a French adjective for “true,” and semblable is a French adjective for “similar,” which shares the stem in English with “resembling.” In a single ten-dollar word, vraisemblable could be translated into English as “verisimilitudinous.”
3 John Joseph Fahie, Galileo, His Life and Work (1903), 324-325.

Context written by Webmaster, with an extract from Fahie's biography of Galileo. (source)

See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)

Thank you for sharing.
- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

by Ian Ellis
who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.