Galileo Galilei


On mathematics as the language of physics:

Philosophy [[i.e. natural philosophy, i.e. physics ]] is written in this grand book — I mean the universe — which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and interpret the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering around in a dark labyrinth. (Galilei, Il Saggiatore, 1623).

Compare to:

On the Milky Way:

the Galaxy is nothing else than a congeries of innumerable stars distributed in clusters. To whatever region of it you direct your spyglass, an immense number of stars immediately offer themselves to view, of which very many appear rather large and very conspicuous but the multitude of small ones is truly unfathomable.

(in Sidereus Nuncius 1610, as translated in Van Helder 1989, p. 34)

Selected writings

  • Sidereus Nuncius, 1610, Enlish translation by Albert Van Helden, University of Chicago 1989 (pdf)
category: people

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