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

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9780060933883: The Pope and the Heretic: The True Story of Giordano Bruno, the Man Who Dared to Defy the Roman Inquisition

Giordano Bruno challenged everything in his pursuit of an all-embracing system of thought. This not only brought him patronage from powerful figures of the day but also put him in direct conflict with the Catholic Church. Arrested by the Inquisition and tried as a heretic, Bruno was imprisoned, tortured, and, after eight years, burned at the stake in 1600. The Vatican "regrets" the burning yet refuses to clear him of heresy.

But Bruno's philosophy spread: Galileo, Isaac Newton, Christiaan Huygens, and Gottfried Leibniz all built upon his ideas; his thought experiments predate 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 William Shakespeare.

Chronicling a genius whose musings helped bring about the modern world, Michael White pieces together the final years -- the capture, trial, and the threat the Catholic Church felt -- that made Bruno a martyr of 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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