The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition

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9780060186265: The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition

The compelling story If one of history's most intriguing yet little-known natural philosophers -- a sixteenth-century Dominican priest whose radical theories influenced some of the greatest thinkers in Western culture -- and the world's first martyr to science

A visionary and rationalist philosopher, Giordano Bruno did not limit himself to one discipline; instead, his erudite intellect accepted nothing and challenged everything in his pursuit of an all-embracing system of thought. It was an openmindedness that brought him patronage from some of the most powerful figures of the day, such as Henry III of France and Elizabeth I of England, but that also put him into direct conflict with the Catholic Church, which defrocked and excommunicated him. Returning to Italy after years spent enjoying intellectual freedom in France, England, and Germany, Bruno was arrested by the Inquisition and tried as a heretic. He endured almost eight years of imprisonment and brutal torture before being burned at the stake in Rome in 1600. And although the Vatican now says that it "regrets" burning Bruno, to this day it has refused to clear him of the charge of heresy.

But the Inquisition's attempts to obliterate Bruno failed, a. his philosophy and influence spread: Galileo, Isaac Newton, Christian Huygens, and Gottfried Leibniz all built upon his ideas; his thought experiments predated the work of such twentieth-century luminaries as Karl Popper; his religious thinking inspired such radicals as Baruch Spinoza; and his work on the art of memory had a profound effect on, among others, William Shakespeare.

The Pope and the Heretic chronicles the work, life, and extraordinary legacy of a genius whose musings helped bring about the modern world. Michael White brilliantly pieces together Bruno's dramatic final years, his capture, and his trial and explains why the Catholic Church felt so threatened by Bruno that it made him a martyr to free thought.

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Review:

Giordano Bruno, the subject of Michael White's The Pope and the Heretic, was a thoroughly modern intellect whose fate was to have lived during the late 16th century, a period characterized in large part by the Inquisition, the Church's monomaniacal suppression of what it deemed heretical thought. A "cerebral maverick," Bruno believed in and wrote about an infinite universe--something beyond Copernicus's heliocentric system, the human origins of the concept of the Trinity, and a possible amalgamation of Roman Catholic doctrine with those of ancient religions. His real crime, at least in Rome's eyes, was his belief in "free inquiry." White's biography is exemplary, in no small part because of his concise, crystal-clear discussions of the period's intellectual beliefs, the delicately tempestuous battle between papal and civil authorities, and his detailed, illuminating look at Bruno's trial and subsequent burning at the stake. The Pope and the Heretic is a trustworthy and enlightening entrance into the dizzyingly complex age of the Renaissance. --H. O'Billovich

About the Author:

Michael White is a former science editor of British GQ, as well as previous Director of Scientific Studies at d'Overbroeck's college, Oxford. He is the author of hundreds of articles covering the cutting edge of science, as well as popular and classical music. A consultant for the Discovery Channel series "The Science of the Impossible," White is the author of a dozen books, including bestselling biographies of Stephen Hawking, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, and Isaac Asimov. He lives with his wife and daughter in London, England.

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