Skip to main content
No Access

Motion to the Center or Motion to the Whole? Plutarch’s Views on Gravity and Their Influence on Galileo

While it is well known that Plutarch’s De facie in orbe lunae was a major source of inspiration for Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius, its influence on his Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo, and especially on his views on gravity, has not been sufficiently explored. This essay offers the first systematic comparison of Plutarch’s and Galileo’s accounts of gravity by focusing on four themes: the thought experiment of a stone falling in a tunnel passing through the center of the Earth; the account of gravity as a tendency to unite with the whole; the view that the Moon is a separate center of attraction; and the impossibility of attraction by an incorporeal point. The essay analyzes the role that these themes play in De facie and in the Dialogo, trying to understand how Galileo appropriated, reworked, and expanded on Plutarch’s views.