• Michael Edmondson

How often do you stand your ground?


Today is December 1 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “How often do you stand your ground?”

People who navigate the chaos often stand firm in their position amidst the volatility of a situation. John Adams, Galileo Galilei and Mary Walker are three such examples.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa.

Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science.”

Due to his discoveries, publications, and beliefs that opposed the Church’s teaching, a sequence of events into his work began around 1610 and ended with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

Heliocentrism is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the center of the Solar System. Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center.

Geocentrism was the commonly accepted belief, especially by the Catholic Church at the time, and originated from the Greek mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer Ptolemy (100-170). He thought that all celestial objects — including the planets, Sun, Moon, and stars — orbited Earth. Earth, in the center of the universe, did not move at all.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

With these observations he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer (1473-1543) who published On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres just before his death in 1543.

This publication marked a major event in the history of science, triggering the Copernican Revolution and making a pioneering contribution to the Scientific Revolution.

Galileo's initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical. Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.

Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth. In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which implicitly defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular.

It is important to note a quote often attributed to Galileo regarding the intersection of science and religion: “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.”

Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him "vehemently suspect of heresy", sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment.

By the end of his trial, Galileo was forced to recant his own scientific findings as "abjured, cursed and detested," a renunciation that caused him great personal anguish but which saved him from being burned at the stake. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Since then, the Church has taken various steps to reverse its opposition to Galileo's conclusions. In 1757, Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was removed from the Index, a former list of publications banned by the Catholic Church.

In 1984, a panel of scientists, theologians and historians said that Galileo had been wrongfully condemned. A few years later, in 1992, Pope John Paul II said that the scientist was "imprudently opposed." Moreover, Paul Cardinal Poupard, the head of the investigation noted in The New York Times: "We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory."

While Galileo had to stand his ground against the Catholic Church, John Adams needed to do so against the British during the American Revolutionary War during the Staten Island Peace Conference.

The Conference was a brief meeting held in the hope of bringing an end to the American Revolutionary War. The conference took place on September 11, 1776 on Staten Island, New York. The participants were the British Admiral Lord Richard Howe, and members of the Second Continental Congress John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Edward Rutledge.

Since Lord Howe's authority was extremely limited, the Congressional delegation was pessimistic about the meeting's outcome. The conference lasted just three hours and was a failure.

The Americans insisted on recognition of their recently-declared independence, and Howe's limited authority was inadequate to deal with that development. In one of the most forgotten quotes in American history John Adams told Lord Howe "Your lordship may consider me in what light you please, except that of a British subject."

Adams choose to stand his ground and demanded to be considered anything except that of a British subject.

While Adams stood his ground during the revolutionary war Mary Edwards Walker did so in the U.S. Civil War and decades thereafter.

Much like Galileo she achieved remarkable success despite so much working against her. Since its creation during the Civil War, the Medal of Honor has been awarded to more than 3,500 men. But only one woman has received the prestigious award: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker.

Mary Walker was born in 1832 in Oswego, New York. Her parents were abolitionists, and they encouraged her to flaunt the rules of women's fashion. She soon began wearing pants, a habit that continued into her adult life.

In 1855, Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College and would become the second woman to become a doctor in the United States. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Walker was barred from being an Army surgeon because she was a woman.

She volunteered instead, working without pay at hospitals in Washington, DC, and Virginia. Walker spent four months as a Confederate prisoner of war in Richmond, Virginia. Despite her service tending to Union Army wounded and her imprisonment, Walker received a smaller pension than that given to war widows.

President Andrew Johnson presented her with the Medal of Honor in November 1865 to thank her for her contributions and her loyalty.

In 1917, however, due to changes in the medal's regulations, her award was rescinded because she did not engage in direct combat with the enemy. Outraged at the idea that she would have to return the Medal of Honor, Dr. Walker refused to return her medal and instead wore it every day until her death in 1919. Her refusal to return the medal was a federal crime.

Decades later, President Jimmy Carter, and an Army review board, reinstated her medal in 1977 to honor her sacrifice and acknowledge the sexism she fought praising her “distinguished gallantry, self-sacrifice, patriotism, dedication and unflinching loyalty to her country, despite the apparent discrimination because of her sex.”

In 1982, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating “Dr. Mary Walker, Army Surgeon,” as the only woman to have been awarded the Medal of Honor and only the second woman to graduate from a medical school in the United States. Ironically, the stamp portrays her wearing a frilly dress and curls even though she broke with tradition during the day and wore pants.

In 2012, the town Oswego dedicated of a statue in her honor, drawing people from around the country remember her, according to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, New York. "I have got to die before people will know who I am and what I have done. It is a shame that people who lead reforms in this world are not appreciated until after they are dead; then the world pays its tributes," Walker once said. That quote is inscribed on part of the statue.

John Adams, Galileo Galilei and Mary Walker all had to stand their ground as they navigated the chaos of their respective time periods. We know about each of them today because they figured out how to move forward despite so much working against them. Standing your ground does not mean standing still; doing nothing, or giving up.

Standing your ground means staying true to what you believe in; even when so many others are against you.

How often do you stand your ground?

This Navigate the Chaos post is part of the Stand category that includes the following entries:


#JohnAdams #BenjaminFranklin #steadfast #StatenIsland #LordHowe #MaryWalker #MedalofHonor #GalileoGalilei #science #religion

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