The Achievements Of Galileo

Known as the father of the Scientific Revolution, Galileo Galilei is best known for invention of the telescope which he used to develop his scientific theories.

Galileo once said, "In the question of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." These were literally some of his famous last words, and words by which he abided throughout his brilliant career as a mathematician, engineer and astronomer. His radical ideas put him at odds with his colleagues and landed him under house arrest during the Inquisition, but Galileo's discoveries have come to serve as the foundation for modern science.

Born in 1564 to a family of better than average means, Galileo Galilei had a natural aptitude for math and science. In hopes that he could earn a decent living, Galileo's parents encouraged him to pursue a medical career. Galileo's interest in mechanical science, however, was too strong to ignore. He eventually earned a job teaching mathematics at the University of Padua. Galileo's job description was to instruct his students in Euclidean geometry and geocentric astronomy - the leading scientific theories of his time. But Galileo's own studies had come to question the authority of Euclid and Aristotle - the two masters upon which all science rested. Galileo was particularly disturbed by Aristotle's claim that the speed at which an object falls is related to its weight. Galileo held that the rate of speed of a falling object had more to do with its mass. To prove his point, he ushered his students to the top of the Tower of Pisa from where he made his famous demonstration.

Galileo's real love was mechanical engineering and he applied his skills to a wide range of useful objects for the study of science. Galileo invented the telescope, which proved invaluable for ship navigation. Navigators could now make out land formations well in advance of bumping into the shore. Galileo also invented the thermometer. In Galileo's time the popular thermascope was an inaccurate measure of heat. Galileo modernized the device, including a series of numbers on its surface to reflect accurate measurements of temperature. He constructed a hydrostatic balance, which jewelers found useful for weighing the amount of precious metals in their goods. And Galileo hit upon the idea of using the swing of a pendulum to regulate clocks.



For Galileo's scientific discoveries, his telescope proved the most useful. Galileo turned his device towards the heavens to view the planets. He discovered four of Jupiter's satellites and was the first to detect sunspots. He published his views in a book titled The Starry Messenger (1610). His theories on the laws of falling bodies and the motions of projectiles contradicted many of the basic scientific principles supported by Aristotle. Galileo's colleagues bristled at his radical approach, and were mortified when he announced his theory that the moon was full of mountains and valleys. Aristotle had maintained that the moon was a perfect sphere. The dark spots, which are visible to the naked eye, were explained as reflections of the earth's features upon the moon, or as a sort of "ňúcontamination'. Galileo refuted such claims. Through his telescope he observed the changing shapes of the dark lunar spots. Using mathematics to prove his logic, Galileo insisted that Aristotle's perfect sphere was actually full of pot marks.

When Galileo used his sunspot theories to support the heretical work of Copernicus, the Roman Catholic Church could no longer remain silent. Copernican theory asserted that the earth was one of a serious of planets that revolved around the sun. For many scientists, and for the Roman Catholic Church, the idea was preposterous. Biblical scripture said that the earth was the center of the universe and to say otherwise was pure heresy. Galileo refused to rescind his ideas, saying that the Bible was an inappropriate medium for the basis of science. Cardinal Bellamine tried to compromise with Galileo, asking him to agree that Copernican theory was only hypothetical. Again Galileo refused.

When Galileo published The Assayer in 1623, the Catholic Church ordered him to Rome to testify before the Inquisition. He was found guilty of heresy, but sentenced rather lightly to a lifetime of house arrest. He was also forbidden to publish anymore works. Luckily, Galileo had a cadre of loyal students to help him secretly continue to study and write. His final work, Discourses Concerning Two New Sciences was published in 1638. The work became the basis for the theories of the next generation of scientists like Johannes Kepler and Sir Isaac Newton.

Galileo died a blind man in 1642. Although the scientific community eventually adopted many of his radical theories, the Roman Catholic Church was more reluctant to change. The Catholic Encyclopedia today asserts that Galileo's intemperate personality was the cause of most of his problems. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Galileo vehemently tried to persuade people to his point of view. When this failed, he would ridicule them in public or by pen in his published articles. For the church, Galileo's arrogance made more enemies than did his theories. Not until 1992 did Pope John Paul II finally admit the Church's error in the condemnation of Galileo Galilei. He also reversed the Church's charge against Galileo -- the father of the Scientific Revolution.

Sources: http://es.rice/du/ES/humsoc/galileo, www.groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk, www.newadvent.org

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