Galileo Galilei, Astronomer/Mathematician

Topics: Galileo Galilei, Heliocentrism, Nicolaus Copernicus Pages: 13 (5105 words) Published: January 2, 2006
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei (Pisa, February 15, 1564 – Arcetri, January 8, 1642), was a Tuscan astronomer, philosopher, and physicist who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include improving the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, the first law of motion, and supporting Copernicanism effectively. He has been referred to as the "father of modern astronomy," as the "father of modern physics," and as "father of science." His experimental work is widely considered complementary to the writings of Francis Bacon in establishing the modern scientific method. Galileo's career coincided with that of Johannes Kepler. The work of Galileo is considered to be a significant break from that of Aristotle. In addition, his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church is taken as a major early example of the conflict of authority and freedom of thought, particularly with science, in Western society. Early career

Galileo was born in Pisa, Italy, as the son of Vincenzo Galilei, a mathematician and musician. He attended the University of Pisa, but was forced to "drop out" for financial reasons. However, he was offered a position on its faculty in 1589 and taught mathematics. Soon after, he moved to the University of Padua, and served on its faculty teaching geometry, mechanics, and astronomy until 1610. During this time he explored science and made many landmark discoveries. Experimental science

In the pantheon of the scientific revolution, Galileo takes a high position because of his pioneering use of quantitative experiments with results analyzed mathematically. There was no tradition of such methods in European thought at that time; the great experimentalist who immediately preceded Galileo, William Gilbert, did not use a quantitative approach. However, Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei, had performed experiments in which he discovered what may be the oldest known non-linear relation in physics, between the tension and the pitch of a stretched string. Galileo also contributed to the rejection of blind allegiance to authority (like the Church) or other thinkers (such as Aristotle) in matters of science and to the separation of science from philosophy or religion. These are the primary justifications for his description as "father of science." In the 20th century some authorities challenged the reality of Galileo's experiments, in particular the distinguished French historian of science Alexandre Koyré. The experiments reported in Two New Sciences to determine the law of acceleration of falling bodies, for instance, required accurate measurements of time, which appeared to be impossible with the technology of the 1600s. According to Koyré, the law was arrived at deductively, and the experiments were merely illustrative thought experiments. Later research, however, has validated the experiments. The experiments on falling bodies (actually rolling balls) were replicated using the methods described by Galileo (Settle, 1961), and the precision of the results was consistent with Galileo's report. Later research into Galileo's unpublished working papers from as early as 1604 clearly showed the reality of the experiments and even indicated the particular results that led to the time-squared law (Drake, 1973). Astronomy

Although the popular idea of Galileo inventing the telescope is inaccurate, he was one of the first people to use the telescope to observe the sky. Based on sketchy descriptions of telescopes invented in the Netherlands in 1608, Galileo made one with about 8x magnification, and then made improved models up to about 20x. On August 25, 1609, he demonstrated his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers. His work on the device also made for a profitable sideline with merchants who found it useful for their shipping businesses. He published his initial telescopic astronomical observations in March 1610 in a short treatise entitled Sidereus Nuncius (Sidereal Messenger). It was on this page...
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