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Galileo's IdolGianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge$
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Nick Wilding

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226166971

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226167022.001.0001

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(p.72) 5 Interconnections
Galileo's Idol

Nick Wilding

University of Chicago Press

From 1608 to 1611, Sagredo was Venetian Consul in Aleppo, Syria. While he claimed in a letter to Galileo that he found it impossible to do any natural philosophy there, he did, in fact, take measurements of magnetic declination and may also have performed some early telescopic astronomical observations. These activities are discussed in the context of the surviving documentary evidence attesting to both his official and unofficial business in Syria. Sagredo’s experiments and observations were carried out alongside troublesome tasks such as the interpretation of garbled evidence of a murder investigation and act of political iconoclasm, but also while he intercepted confidential documents from passing travelers, such as the Armenian merchant Xwāje Ṣafar, who was carrying letters from the Augustinian friar Antonio de Gouvea. Sagredo’s attempts at espionage earned him a stern rebuke from Venice, but they became an integral part of his natural philosophy.

Keywords:   Aleppo, magnetic declination, telescopic astronomy, espionage, Xwāje Ṣafar, interception, iconoclasm

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