Who Are History's Greatest Heretics?

[Courtney Knapp]

Three hundred and seventy eight years ago today, the Roman Inquisition forced Galileo Galilei to recant his heliocentric views as written in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galileo spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 1642.

Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Church wasn't ready for Galileo's controversial views but Galileo famously complained that even other scientists and philosophers who opposed his discoveries refused to look through his telescopes.

My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth."

It took the Catholic Church 359 years to correct their mistake. In 1992, Pope John Paul II vindicated Galileo and in 2000 a formal apology was issued by the church. Scientists were quicker to realize their mistake.

Now for the fun: Who (or what) do you think history will be apologizing to in the future? Alternatively, who are your favorite heretics?