On the Life of Galileo
Viviani's Historical Account and Other Early Biographies
Edited, translated, and annotated by Stefano Gattei


The first collection and translation into English of the earliest biographical accounts of Galileo’s life

This unique critical edition presents key early biographical accounts of the life and work of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), written by his close contemporaries. Collected and translated into English for the first time and supplemented by an introduction and incisive annotations by Stefano Gattei, these documents paint an incomparable firsthand picture of Galileo and offer rare insights into the construction of his public image and the complex intertwining of science, religion, and politics in seventeenth-century Italy.

Here in its entirety is Vincenzo Viviani’s Historical Account, an extensive and influential biography of Galileo written in 1654 by his last and most devoted pupil. Viviani’s text is accompanied by his “Letter to Prince Leopold de’ Medici on the Application of Pendulum to Clocks” (1659), his 1674 description of Galileo’s later works, and the long inscriptions on the facade of Viviani’s Florentine palace (1702). The collection also includes the “Adulatio perniciosa,” a Latin poem written in 1620 by Cardinal Maffeo Barberini—who, as Pope Urban VIII, would become Galileo’s prosecutor—as well as descriptive accounts that emerged from the Roman court and contemporary European biographers.

Featuring the original texts in Italian, Latin, and French with their English translations on facing pages, this invaluable book shows how Galileo’s pupils, friends, and critics shaped the Galileo myth for centuries to come, and brings together in one volume the primary sources needed to understand the legendary scientist in his time.

Stefano Gattei is visiting associate in history at the California Institute of Technology and Dibner Fellow at the Huntington Library. He is the author of Thomas Kuhn’s “Linguistic Turn” and the Legacy of Logical Empiricism and Karl Popper’s Philosophy of Science. He is the coeditor of Physics and Philosophy, the fourth volume of Paul Feyerabend’s collected philosophical papers.