According to popular legend, when Galileo presented his telescope to senior cardinals/Jesuits/Aristotelian philosophers/the Inquisition (delete as applicable) they refused to even look through it. This tale has become a standard trope for when we want to attack anyone who won't accept 'obvious' evidence. As the last chapter of my book will be on Galileo, I thought I should try to nail down the primary sources for the legend. So I asked the internet's resident Galileo expert, Paul Newall of the Galilean Library to chase them down for me. His reply was extremely interesting.
There are three peices of evidence that have gone into the construction of the legend, as far as we can tell. The first concerns Cesare Cremonini, a good friend of Galileo and a Professor of Aristotelian Philosophy at the University of Padua. Quoted in a letter from a mutual friend to Galileo, Cremonini says of the telescope "I do not wish to approve of claims about which I do not have any knowledge, and about things which I have not seen .. and then to observe through those glasses gives me a headache. Enough! I do not want to hear anything more about this." It's clear that Cremonini did look through the telescope long enough to give himself a headache but could not see what Galileo could. Frankly, it was more than Cremonini's job was worth to endorse Galileo because it would have refuted Aristotle.
The second case is Guilio Libri, Professor of Aristotelian Philosophy at Pisa and no friend of Galileo's. He died very shortly after the telescopic discoveries were made public. Galileo was viciously biting when he heard the news, writing to a friend to ask if Libri, "never having wanted to see [the moons of Jupiter] on Earth, perhaps he'll see them on the way to heaven?" Did Libri refuse to look through the telescope or look and not see the moons (which was not easy at all, especially if you were old and without the keenest of eyesight)?
Finally, the senior Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius said of the moons of Jupiter "One would first have to built a spyglass that creates them and only then would it show them." However, the fault was with the Jesuits' first effort to built a telescope. Once they had built themselves a better one, Clavius confirmed that he could see the moons.
So who refused to look through Galileo's telescope? According to the historical record, no one did for certain. The argument was over what they could see once they once they did look.
Comments or questions? Post them at Bede's dedicated yahoo group.