1564 - 1642
“founder of modern experimental science”by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Galileo was an Italian who made many vital contributions to science by his strives to satisfy his own curiosity. This man designed and improved many scientific instruments of his time and developed many new effective uses to them. He wrote books that spoke out against the religion of his time and contradicted the law. He was sentenced to life-long imprisonment in his own home because he dared to speak out against the authority, and it was there that he went blind before dying in the loneliness of his home, at the age of 82. This remarkable man was Galileo Galilei.
Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, to Vincenzo Galilei and Guilia Ammannati. Vincenzo taught music and was a fantastic lute player. He studied music in Venice, and afterwards carried out experiments that were related to strings so that he could support his musical theories. Perhaps that is why Galileo was so interested in doing experiments…
When Galileo was 8 years old, his family returned to Florence, which was his father’s hometown. Galileo stayed with relatives in Pisa until he was 10, and then he moved to join his family in Florence. Once he was old enough to be educated, his parents sent him to the Camaldolese Monastery at Vallombrosa which is situated on a magnificent forested hillside 33 km southeast of Florence. The Calmaldolese Order was independent from that of the Benedictine Order, splitting from it in about 1012. The Calmaldolese Order combined the solitary life of the hermit with the strict life of the monk. The young Galileo became a novice, intending to join the Order, but this did not agree with his father, who was determined that his eldest son should become a medical doctor. In 1581, Galileo enrolled in the University of Pisa and began studying medicine and the philosophy of Aristotle until 1585. In 1585, he persuaded his father to let him leave the university and he returned to Florence with his family where he became a tutor in Mathematics for the next 4 years. Galileo then returned to the University of Pisa in 1589. Not as a student, but was the professor of mathematics. He stayed in that position for 13 years and then began teaching mathematics at the University of Padua for 18 years. While he was there, he became more and more convinced of the Polish astronomer, Nicholas Copernicus’ theory that all planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun.
Even though the telescope already existed, Galileo built his first one in 1609.
This one was unlike all the others that had gone before it. Galileo had found
a way to improve the average telescope so that astronomers could see farther
out into the galaxy. With this new telescope, Galileo discovered the four moons
that revolve around Pluto in 1610. At that time, the ruling family in Florence
was the Mecidis. In the hopes of gaining favor with them, Galileo named the
moons the “Medicean Planets”. That same year, the Grand Duke of
Tuscany, Cosimo de Mecidi named Galileo his personal mathematician.
Aside from studying the stars, Galileo also enjoyed doing experiments. He observed that pendulums of equal length swing at the same rate whether their arcs are large or small. This theory lasted for many years as true, but modern measuring instruments show that the rate is actually somewhat greater if the arc is larger. In 1611 he went to Rome. He became a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and observed the sunspots.
In 1613, Galileo wrote a letter* to Castelli, who was Mathematical Professor at Pisa, in which he tried to show that the Copernican theory was consistent with proper Biblical interpretation. He said that the Bible was beyond doubt infallible; but that though the Scripture could not err, its interpreters might. Some of his enemies in the scientific society sent a copy of his letter to the inquisitors in Rome, who sought out and punished heretics. In early 1616, Galileo was summoned to Rome for a determination on the orthodoxy of his views. Although he was cleared of charges of heresy, he was ordered not to “hold or defend” the Copernican theory. Accordingly, in 1613, he wrote a letter, defending this view,
Perhaps Galileo remembered another time when the authorities tried to supress the truth in error. While Peter and John were preaching to the Jews, the Pharisees arrest them and told them not to speak in the name of Jesus. This example of religious leaders demanding they should not “hold or defend” their beliefs is found in Acts. "'But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.' And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:17-18) (NASB).
In 1632, Galileo wrote and published his first scientific masterpiece; the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. This compared the Ptolemaic-Aristotle theory to the Copernium theory, to show that the Copernium theory was superior, and thus going directly against what the Roman Inquisitor had warned him not to do. Because of this, Galileo was forced to recant and was sentenced to life imprisonment, at the age of 69. Since he was in such failing health, the church decided to allow him to serve his imprisonment under house arrest. It was there, that he wrote and published his second masterpiece; the Discourse on the Two New Sciences, in 1638. Galileo died in the relative isolation of his home, a blind man of 78 years, in 1642.
Galileo Galilei accomplished many things in his life. He invented the microscope, improved the telescope, and even developed a method for determining longitudes at sea. This man was one of a kind, and he was unjustly accused of a wrong that was later investigated by Pope John Paul II, in 1979. It was not until 1992, that the Pope publicly endorsed the commission’s finding that the church had made a mistake in condemning Galileo.
My historians agree that Galileo’s originality lay in the way he approached
1. He reduced those problems to very simple terms on the basis of everyday experience and common-sense logic.
2. He analyzed and resolved the problems according to simple mathematical descriptions
His success opened the way for the development of modern mathematical physics.
1. World Book Millennium 2000, Vol. G/ Book 8/ Pg. 11-12, Article: Galileo (1564-1642), Author: A. Mark Smith
2. www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/ Mathematicians/Galileo.htm
* "I believe that the intention of Holy Writ was to persuade men of the truths necessary to salvation; such as neither science nor ther means could render credible, but only the voice of the Holy Spirit. But I do not think it necessary to believe that the same God who gave us our senses, our speech, our intellect, would have us put aside the use of these to teach us instead such things as with their help we could find out for ourselves, particularly in the case of those sciences of which there is not the smallest mention in Scripture; and above all in astronomy, of which so little notice is taken, that none of the planets except the sun and moon, and once or twice only Venus, un-der the name of Lucifer, is so much as named there. Surely, if the intention of the sa-cred writers had been to teach the people astronomy, they would not have passed the subject over so completely."