Kip Thorne and Galileo Galilei

From left to right: Professors Keith Riles, Kip S. Thorne and Gregory Tarlé

From left to right: Professors Keith Riles, Kip S. Thorne and Gregory Tarlé

Yesterday we were honored with the visit of Kip S. Thorne, the Feyman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech. Before delivering the twenty-sixth annual Ta-You Wu Lecture in Physics, Professor Thorne came to view one of the most remarkable artifacts held in the Special Collections Library: a single-leaf  manuscript containing Galileo's own annotations of his first observations of the moons of Jupiter in January 1610.

Manuscript on paper: 305 mm x 205 mm. First Part: Draft of a letter to the Doge of Venice, Leonardo Donato. August 1609; Second Part: Annotations based on daily observations of the moons of Jupiter. January 1610
Manuscript on paper: 305 mm x 205 mm. First Part: Draft of a letter to the Doge of Venice, Leonardo Donato. August 1609; Second Part: Annotations based on daily observations of the moons of Jupiter. January 1610

Professor Thorne's visit somehow felt like a  historical encounter between the old and new astronomies. For many decades, Dr. Thorne's research has been focused on Einstein's theory of relativity and on astrophysics, particularly on relativistic stars, black holes, and gravitational waves.  Along with Raier Weiss and Ronald Drever, Dr. Thorne co-founded LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) a multi-million project designed to study gravitational waves created  from the merger of black holes. In fact, on September 14 2015 LIGO began the journey of gravitational astronomy by detecting gravitational waves reaching the earth; this discovery was led by the scientific team led by Professor Keith Riles at the University of Michigan.  However,  this exciting new astronomy is also indebted to a long tradition of electromagnetic astronomy, which Galileo inaugurated by directing his newly-designed telescope toward Jupiter and its moons. During his visit at Special Collections, Dr. Thorne also examined our copy of the first edition of Sidereus Nuncius (Florence: 1610), where Galileo expanded on his notes on Jupiter's moons, including other recent astronomical observations.

For more information on the Galileo's manuscript click the following  link;  see also the excellent video authored by former Head and Curator at the Special Collections Library, Dr. Peggy Daub.