Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Giordano Bruno

A poem from Piet Hein (Translated by James Honzik)

Why did they burn Giordano Bruno?

Because the open mind is dangerous.
Because the power of the word is a weapon.
Because the freedom of life is might.

Because a free life is the might
against which the violence of power is futile.
Because the power of the word is our weapon,
- inquiry against domination.
Because an open mind is dangerous
for anyone who lives within their servitude.

Because Aristotle is overthrown,
and Copernicus expands the world.
Because mankind’s long journey
into new diversity and richness
led by humble free thought
bursts the bonds of slavery.

Therefore, they burned Giordano Bruno.

Therefore, - Because a human is larger
than the chambers, one is forced into,
than the weapons, one is faced with,
than their power, ineffectually
towering against Giordano Bruno's thought.

Therefore, not they, but he lives.


Piet Hein was a Danish scientist, architect, polymath, universalist, poet, and friend of Neils Bohr.

Life Magazine article about Piet Hein

Giordano Bruno was 16th century Italian philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, who wandered through the intellectual centers of Europe, teaching, learning, disseminating his ideas, which ran contrary to the dominant religious power structure. 

Some of his writing seems prophetic of contemporary cosmological thought.

"This entire globe, this star, not being subject to death, and dissolution and annihilation being impossible anywhere in Nature, from time to time renews itself by changing and altering all its parts. There is no absolute up or down, as Aristotle taught; no absolute position in space; but the position of a body is relative to that of other bodies. Everywhere there is incessant relative change in position throughout the universe, and the observer is always at the center of things."

"In 1584, twenty-five years before Galileo lifted a telescope, Bruno took the Copernican hypothesis to the outrageous new conclusion that the sun is merely one of an infinity of stars, which stretch across boundless and inexhaustible space."  

They burned him at the stake.

Wikipedia article about Giordano Bruno


  1. Did Galileo recant because he knew what had happened to Bruno?

    1. It must have gone through his mind. Of course, you must know of what Galileo is said to have uttered as he was being led from the dungeons, "Eppur si move", that is, still it moves.

  2. Is that why he had to subsequently endure house arrest?

    1. This wikipedia article seems fair.

      Galileo was found guilty, and the sentence of the Inquisition, issued on 22 June 1633,[37] was in three essential parts:

      Galileo was found "vehemently suspect of heresy," namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the center of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to "abjure, curse, and detest" those opinions.[38]
      He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition.[39] On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.

      His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.[40]