A few nights ago, I was watching Secrets of the Dead again. This time, it was an episode called "Galileo's Moon," which—pardon the pun—revolves around the supposed discovery of an early copy of Galileo's book Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger). While the copy in question turned out to be a forgery, the episode reiterates multiple times that Sidereus Nuncius is one of the most important scientific works ever published.
PBS's description of the episode explains it this way:
"Prior to 1610, it was generally accepted that Earth was the center of the universe and that all heavenly bodies revolved around it. This common belief was held for at least two millennia until renowned mathematician, physicist, and military architect Galileo Galilei began studying the cosmos with a telescope.
"Galileo recorded his observations of Earth's moon as well as Jupiter and its moons. With his work, Galileo established the basic principles of the universe as we know them today: the sun, surrounded by 9 orbiting planets, is the center of our solar system and not Earth."
(I think this was written before Pluto got demoted.)
As I watched, a question struck me. What if we didn't have an authentic original copy of Sidereus Nuncius? Would that invalidate the information in the book? Or, given that we've now confirmed much of that information through later explorations, would it "just" (for lack of a better word) affect to whom we give credit when we write the history of space exploration?
I'm not sure. That's a question better posed to historians and astronomers. But it did inspire today's question for Writing-Prompt Wednesday:
What do you think is the most important scientific discovery in history, and why?
Post your response in the comments. I'm curious to hear what you think!
(Thanks to K. Mitch Hodge for sharing their work on Unsplash.)