Born in the mid 16th century as Filippo Bruno, he was burned at the stake in 1600 for spreading the theory of heliocentrism. The powerful elite of the day along with 97 percent of scientists said that the earth was the center of the universe. But Bruno went even further, suggesting that the Sun (Helios) was just another star, and millions of stars in the universe would have planets in orbit. Bruno was influenced by astrological data that the Arab world had saved from perdition dating back to the ancient Greeks.
Born in Italy, Bruno received some of his early education from monks of the Augustinian Order in Naples. Naples is directly west of the volcano Vesuvio and Nola, where Bruno was born is northeast of Vesuvio (Mount Vesuvius). Pompeii is southeast of Monte Vesuvio and was buried 15 centuries before Bruno was born.
At 17, Bruno took the name Giordano when he entered the Dominican Order in Naples, and was an ordained Catholic Priest by the age of 24. He became known for his work with memory and mnemonics. One modern mnemonic we all use is “Pregnant Camels Ordinarily Sit Down Carefully, Perhaps Their Joints Creak” to remember the geologic ages of Precambrian, Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous. Bruno was appreciated for his intelligence, but also gained notoriety for his interest in forbidden books, and his willingness to engage in open minded thinking.
By 1579, fleeing the elite of Italia, Bruno reached Geneva Switzerland. However, he wore out his welcome and then fled to France, first Lyon and then Toulouse. Bruno also made his way to Paris, where French Nobles appreciated his wit and he received their endorsement. He traveled to England and attended the court if King Henry III where he explained that his prodigious memory was the result of ordinary knowledge and clever mnemonics, and not from the realm of magic.
Political norms shifted and Bruno fled to Germany, where he taught Aristotelian subjects, only to flee a changing political climate there to Prague and then Frankfurt. But by 1592, things seemed saner back in Italy, and Bruno reached Venice in 1592. However, within two years he was dragged to Rome and charged with holding opinions contrary to the Pope, the Trinity, claiming the earth was not unique and offering theories counter to Catholic teaching regarding the ultimate fate of the human soul. He was imprisoned for seven years, and it is thought that he was finally burned at the stake on February 17, 1600.
Giordano Bruno lived shortly after Copernicus, who died in 1543, seven years before Bruno was born. He was a contemporary of Galileo and perhaps they even met in 1592 in Venice, where they both taught briefly. Galileo was fifteen years younger, and less brash, but perhaps more brilliant a mathematician. Galileo did not get into trouble with the Roman authorities until 1632, three decades after the demise of Bruno.
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