Physics from Hell: How Dante’s Inferno Inspired Galileo’s Physics

This coming fall, Mark Peterson, a physics professor at Mount Holyoke College, will publish a new book where he makes a rather curious argument: Back in 1588, a young Galileo presented two lectures before the Florentine Academy. And there he laid the groundwork for his theoretical physics when he called into question the accepted measurements of Dante’s hell (as depicted in the Inferno, the great epic poem from 1314). Did debates over a poem figure into the unfolding of The Scientific Revolution? The Boston Globe digs deeper into the question with the video above and a longer article here.

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  • CJ Fearnley

    Open Yale Courses has videos lectures for “Dante in Translation”. Course home page:

  • Jack Durish

    Absolutely fascinating. Did Dante intuit some kernel of truth that Galileo was able to build upon or did Galileo merely use Dante’s poem as jumping off place for his journey to find truth? I’m looking forward to reading this one.