The Assayer

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A Letter to the Illustrious and Very Reverend Don Virginio Cesarini

Rome 1623

I have never understood, Your Excellency, why it is that every one of the studies I have published in order to please or to serve other people has aroused in some men a certain perverse urge to detract, steal, or deprecate that modicum of merit which I thought I had earned, if not for my work, at least for its intention. In my Starry Messenger there were revealed many new and marvelous discoveries in the heavens that should have gratified all lovers of true science; yet scarcely had it been printed when men sprang up everywhere who envied the praises belonging to the discoveries there revealed. Some, merely to contradict what I had said, did not scruple to cast doubt upon things they had seen with their own eyes again and again.

My lord the Grand Duke Cosimo II, of glorious memory, once ordered me to write down my opinions about the causes of things floating or sinking in water, and in order to comply with that command I put on paper everything I could think of beyond the teachings of Archimedes, which perhaps is as much as may truly be said on this subject. Immediately the entire press was filled with attacks against my Discourse. My opinions were contradicted without the least regard for the fact that what I had set forth was supported and proved by geometrical demonstrations; and such is the strength of men's passion that they failed to notice how the contradiction of geometry is a bald denial of truth. How many men attacked my Letters on Sunspots, and under what disguises! The material contained therein ought to have opened to the minds eye much room for admirable speculation; instead it met with scorn and derision. Many people disbelieved it or failed to appreciate it. Others, not wanting to agree with my ideas, advanced ridiculous and impossible opinions against me; and some, overwhelmed and convinced by my arguments, attempted to rob me of that glory which was mine, pretending not to have seen my writings and trying to represent themselves as the original discoverers of these impressive marvels.

I say nothing of certain unpublished private discussions, demonstrations, and propositions of mine which have been impugned or called worthless; yet even these have sometimes been stumbled upon by other men who with admirable dexterity have exerted themselves to appropriate these as inventions of their own ingenuity. Of such usurpers I might name not a few. I shall pass over first offenders in silence, as they customarily receive less severe punishment than repeaters. But I shall no longer hold my peace about one of the latter, who has too boldly tried once more to do the very same thing he did many years ago when he appropriated the invention of my geometric compass, after I had shown it to and discussed it with many gentlemen years before, and had finally published a book about it. May I be pardoned if on this occasion-against my nature, my custom, and my present purpose- I show resentment and protest (perhaps too bitterly) about something I have kept to myself all these years.

I speak of Simon Mayr of Guntzenhausen. He it was in Padua, where I resided at the time, who set forth in Latin the uses of my compass and had one of his pupils publish this and sign it. Then, perhaps to escape punishment, he departed immediately for his native land and left his pupil in the lurch. In Simon Mayr's absence I was obliged to proceed against his pupil, in the manner described in the Defense which I published at the time.

Now four years after my Starry Messenger appeared, this same fellow (in the habit of trying to ornament himself with other people's works) unblushingly made himself the author of the things I had discovered and printed in that book. Publishing under the title of The World of Jupiter, he had the gall to claim that he had observed the Medicean planets which revolve about Jupiter before I had. . . . But note his sly way of attempting to establish his priority. I had written of making my first observation on the seventh of January, 16io. Along comes Mayr, and, appropriating my very observations, he prints on the title page of his book (as well as in the opening pages) that he had made his observations in the year 16og. But he neglects to warn the reader that he is a Protestant, and hence had not accepted the Gregorian calendar. Now the seventh day of January, 1610, for us Catholics, is the same as the twenty-eighth day of December, 1609, for those heretics. And so much for his pretended priority of observation.

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