Galileo Galilei found evidence through his telescope that our solar system was heliocentric (sun centered) and was labeled (or libeled) a heretic, forbidden to teach, forced to recant his claims publicly, confined to house arrest and all his published and future writings banned. Currently, we are anticipating our mathematically predicted solar eclipse, based upon the Copernican theories Galileo was trying to espouse.
Today, most of us know that all living things on Earth are composed of cells, but think about the first person to ever make that assertion. We know that when he looked through his microscope, suddenly able to see what had previously eluded everyone, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, with little scientific, artistic, or writing background, was aware of the skepticism he would receive and wrote:
“My work, which I’ve done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof.”
— Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, in a letter dated 12 June 1716
Sometimes men of vision, or simply those willing to believe what they see, come up against strong opposition and even resentment from those with whom they attempt to share their findings. Nonetheless, progress is made through the brave efforts of these scientists who insist on the validity of their observations, even though it may initially bring them grief from their peers.
Here’s the sonnet by itself:
He looked into the lens-system and saw
an unimaginably small world grow.
Now does this image in history draw
from van Leeuwenhoek or Galileo?
Through lenses both passed
to another realm of being,
since their broadened reference frame
allowed them visions
that could overwhelm.
Then for everyone nothing stayed the same.
The vaster one’s view
the clearer things get,
of cosmic, subatomic, even time,
and, while the masses may first be upset,
brought to some summit
that they didn’t climb,
it’s crucial so all the ingenious might
be informed of the remarkable sight.