And yet it moves  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"And yet it moves" (Eppur si muove) is a phrase said to have been uttered before the Inquisition by the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) in 1633 after being forced to recant that the earth moves around the sun.

At the time of Galileo's trial, the dominant view among theologians and philosophers was that the Earth is stationary, indeed the center of the universe. Galileo's adversaries brought the charge of heresy, then punishable by death, before the Inquisition. Since Galileo recanted, he was only put under house arrest until his death, nine years after the trial.

In this context, the implication of the phrase is: despite this recantation, the Church's proclamations to the contrary, or any other conviction or doctrine of men, the Earth does, in fact, move around the sun, and not vice versa. As such, the phrase is used today as a sort of pithy retort implying that "it doesn't matter what you believe; these are the facts".

There is no contemporary evidence that Galileo uttered this expression at his trial; it would certainly have been highly imprudent for him to have done so. The earliest biography of Galileo, written by his disciple Vincenzo Viviani in 1655–1656, does not mention this phrase.

The event was first reported in English print in 1757 by Giuseppe Baretti in his book the The Italian Library:

The moment he was set at liberty, he looked up to the sky and down to the ground, and, stamping with his foot, in a contemplative mood, said, Eppur si muove, that is, still it moves, meaning the earth.

The book was written 124 years after the supposed utterance and became widely published in Querelles Littéraires (1761).

In 1911, the line was found on a Spanish painting owned by a Belgian family. This painting was produced within a year or two after Galileo died as it is dated 1643 or 1645 (the last number is partially obscured). The painting is obviously not historically correct, because it depicts Galileo in a dungeon, but nonetheless shows that some variant of the "Eppur si muove" legend was in circulation immediately after his death when many who had known him were still alive to attest to it, and that it had been circulating for over a century before it was published.

Although the Galileo affair resulted in a temporary reverse for the cause of heliocentrism, the work of Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton ultimately vindicated the theory. Even if Galileo never uttered "Eppur si muove," the phrase accurately reflects the empiricist spirit he helped to foster in early modern Europe.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "And yet it moves" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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