Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican - Galileo Galilei, Stephen Jay Gould, Stillman Drake, Albert Einstein, John L. Heilbron Salviati, Sagredo and Simplicio serve as Galileo’s vehicles to discuss the conflict between the Ptolemic/ Aristotelian universe and the Copernican. Separated into discussions over four days, Salviati is Galileo’s proxy as he disassembles Simplicio’s geocentrism to win over the undecided Sagredo.

The first day is a lively debate which sets the stage for the intellectual battle between established “scientific” belief and the persuasiveness of observable and geometric facts. With only polite restraint, Salviati rips apart the philosophers who intellectualize the world for structure instead of those who observe and interact with it to understand it. As the days progress, Salviati relies more and more upon the geometric proofs which support his position which make it difficult for those not geometrically inclined to follow the conversation. Unfortunately, the geometry eventually supersedes the writing. However, I am the first to admit that this is the weakness of the reader (like me) and not the book.

As a fairly accessible, well-documented (if not oftentimes incorrect) and engaging scientific work, it’s undoubtedly an excellent and seminal work. But if we look at this as literature, which it attempts to be through its dialogue format, it falls apart as it relies more heavily on geometric diagrams than words.