Series: Personal Encounters With Primary Resources for Canadian Sci/Tech History 

Sub-Series 2: Off My Quarantined Bookshelf

First Posted on Saturday, September 12, 2020 / Shabbat, 23 Elul, 5780

Last updated on Monday, September 14, 2020


Stillman Drake’s Personal Copy of Discoveries and Opinions Of Galileo

By: David Orenstein


Part 1, Introduction

As my first pandemic era blog post I will look at one of the gems of my home library, which I can access when research libraries and archives are still off limits.

It was owned by an icon of the Canadian History of Science community, Stillman Drake. It’s his personal copy of his 1957 paperback, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo.

My thoughts turned to it when the editor commissioned a review from me for Communique, the bulletin of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS).
I was to review Mario Livio’s new book on Galileo which I had received as a much prized birthday present from my wife. Galileo and the Science Deniers (2020) joined the other members of my small Galileo collection on my office bookshelves.

From left to right they are: Galileo in Rome, Galileo in Oxford’s Past Masters Series, Discoveries and Opinions, Galileo Heretic, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Galileo Galilei Antologia (in Italian), the Past Masters in Italian, Galileo Galilei (in German), and Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. They’ve since been joined by Albert van Helden’s 2016 English translation of Sidereus Nuncius, another present from my wife, this time for Dominion Day. They are bracketed on the shelf by Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution. In another section of my office library I found Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (1970, 1974). It’s Volume 4 of Proceedings Of the International Colloquium in the Philosophy of Science, London, 1965. There Popper and other heavy hitters, such as Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Stephen Toulmin, and others, take aim at Kuhn’s (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, but in a friendly way. But that’s another story.

I acquired my Discoveries and Opinions at the silent auction that was run at Victoria College when the University of Toronto hosted the Triple S in 1992. That’s the quadrennial joint gathering of CSHPS with the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) and the History of Science Society (HSS). Though Drake was too ill to be in attendance, he had made a major contribution to the auction. In addition to D&O, I won the auction for several other gems such as the Encyclopedia of Antique Scientific Instruments (1983) and The Collected Papers of Alfred Young 1873-1940 (1977).

On the face of it, Discoveries and Opinions was the least impressive volume: a smallish somewhat dilapidated paperback that had been rather thoroughly marked up. But marked up by who? Apparently, Drake himself, as he was working on preparing a second edition. But when did he do the annotating?

Obviously, the earliest possible date would be 1957 the year of publication. The latest would be 1992, the year I won the auction for it. Another constraint is that Drake’s own notes refer to his receiving an LL. D. from his alma mater, the University of California, in 1968; that he was a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, which he was from 1967; and that the most recent work that he was to add to the Bibliography was his own Galileo Studies, published in 1970. Drake doesn’t add his own 1978 Galileo at Work to the bibliography, let alone Galileo: Pioneer Scientist from 1990.

Thus, he added the annotations any time between 1970 and 1978, so let’s split the difference and say it was 1974, the year I graduated from the University of Toronto with a four-year B. Sc. in Mathematics and Biology.

But that’s another story.

There doesn’t seem to have actually been a second edition, for Mario Livio in his 2020 Galileo and the Science Deniers still uses the 1957 edition of Discoveries and Opinions as the source for his English translations form The Assayer. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any second edition in the rather vast University of Toronto Library system. Another argument for only one edition is in Pioneer Scientist, where Drake is still citing this 1957 edition.

Drake’s annotations cover  a wide range of purposes. They are found throughout the book though there are large sections that Drake wanted to stand as they are. Sometime Drake wants to improve a translation. Or he replaces the legend by the actual event. Updates include new books or papers for the bibliography or events in his own life. Sometimes it’s just a passage that he knows he should rewrite.

So, let’s now look at the actual holograph annotations, but that’s yet another story. (See forthcoming blog post “Stillman Drake’s Own Discoveries…: Selected Annotations”, expected online Friday, September 18, 2020 / Yom Shishi, 29 Elul, 5780

– Erev Rosh Ha-Shonah)



Stillman Drake, 1957, Discoveries and Opinions Of Galileo, xi + 302 pp. + 4 pp. of catalogue

Doubleday Anchor Books, Garden City, New York.

Mario Livio, 2020, Galileo and the Science Deniers, xv + 286 pp.

Simon and Schuster, New York

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