Looking Back at Galileo’s Gianicolo Anniversary (2): ‘Conversations That Matter’ (07.04.11)

On Thursday 7 April 2011 the American Academy in Rome hosted a public program on “Science and Faith” in its Conversations That Matter series. Academy Director Christopher S. Celenza (FAAR’94. pictured above at left) discussed the interrelationship between scientific and religious inquiry with bestselling author Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, astronomer at the Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana). You can view the entire Conversation here; see also below.

The Conversation was followed by the opening of the exhibition Historical Instruments from the Collection of the Specola Vaticana in the Academy’s Gallery. The exhibition featured one of the world’s finest collections of historical instruments for observing the sky and identifying stars and celestial bodies. Contributing to the exhibition was Florence’s Museo Galileo, which loaned to the Academy a replica of a 1610 Galileo telescope, one that traveled in 2009 on the space shuttle Atlantis. The AAR warmly thanks Finmeccanica for its generous support which made this anniversary commemoration possible.

Full video (ca. 75 minutes) of the 7 April 2011 “Conversations That Matter” on science and faith

The Conversation and exhibition opening marked the first events in a week-long celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s demonstration and naming of the “telescope” on Rome’s Gianicolo hill (14 April 1611), on what is now the grounds of the American Academy, culminating in the Galileo Cabaret of 14 April 2011. The celebration received worldwide media attention, ranging from the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano to any number of North American news outlets. You can read Nicole Winfield’s Associated Press coverage of the AAR’s Galileo events here and see various images from the week here and here.

Highlights from the Galileo Week of 7-14 April 2011

Shortly before the 7 April Conversation at the AAR, Christopher Celenza explained to Carol Glatz of the Catholic News Service (CNS) how in April 1611 a small group of Renaissance scientists and scholars—such as the Jesuit Christopher Clavius, who helped devise the Gregorian calendar 40 years earlier—“gathered here to celebrate Galileo and the invention of what they termed at this meeting, the telescope. It was the first time the word telescope was used” to refer to the device Galileo had perfected in 1609 and started using to study the heavens. Celenza detailed how the guests at the 14 April 1611 looked through Galileo’s embossed leather telescope in an effort to see what he had been reporting—a number of celestial bodies circling Jupiter.

7 April 2011: AAR Director Christopher S. Celenza, FAAR’94, and Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ

Christopher S. Celenza

Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ

Audience at 7 April 2011 “Conversations That Matter”

Brother Guy Consolmagno underlined to the CNS the significance of Galileo’s unveiling the telescope on the Gianicolo: “this is the first time that science is done with an instrument. It’s not something that just any philosopher could look at. You had to have the right tool to be able to be able to see it,” because one’s own eyes were no longer enough. Just a few weeks after he demonstrated his telescope on the Roman hillside, Galileo was “feted at the Roman College by the Jesuits, who were really impressed with the work he had done. At this point, he had burst onto the scene as one of the great intellectual lights of the 17th century,” said Brother Consolmagno.

10 April 2011 broadcast: Morley Safer (CBS) interviews AAR Director Christopher S. Celenza

And shortly after the 7 April “Conversations That Matter” event, CBS on Sunday 10 April aired an episode of its 60 Minutes television show where host Morley Safer asked Vatican Library experts, including AAR Director Christopher Celenza, the same question: if the building was on fire, what would you save? You can see Celenza’s response here, and the full 15 minute feature on visiting the Vatican Library here.

10 April 2011 CBS broadcast:Christopher S. Celenza

“Conversations That Matter” is a public series that Director Christopher Celenza first instituted at the AAR in 2010. Here Celenza and one or more distinguished panelists engage with an audience on current issues that affect people across the globe. The first installment focused on technology and the media, with guests Vivian Schiller and Sylvia Poggioli from NPR.

For the next scheduled Conversation (Saturday 28 May, 4.30 PM) the theme will be “Cosmopolitanism.” Six current AAR Fellows will briefly discuss a text, a problem in their work or an image related to this concept as a prelude to a general audience discussion moderated by Christopher Celenza.

Featured in this Conversation are: Seth Bernard, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize; Stephanie Malia Hom, Lily Auchincloss Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; Ersela Kripa, Founders Rome Prize; Stephen Mueller, Founders Rome Prize; Stéphanie Nadalo, Marian and Andrew Heiskell Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize; and Barbara Naddeo, Paul Mellon/National Endowment for the Humanities Post-Doctoral Rome Prize.

Audience seats are limited, and available by preregistration only (by Wednesday 25 May) at this address.

AAR Director Christopher S. Celenza, FAAR’94

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