Who Was Galileo Galilei?
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the great Italian scientist and mathematician, was the first astronomer to use a telescope, the discoverer of the pendulum’s laws and the founder of modern physics. Galileo Galilei has been called the “father of observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics”, the “father of the scientific method”, and the “father of science”. Galileo is a central figure in the transition from natural philosophy to modern science and in the transformation of the scientific Renaissance into a scientific revolution.
Two of his great contributions to knowledge are associated with famous buildings in Pisa, the northern Italian city where he was born. When Galileo was 19, he observed a lamp swinging in the cathedral. From its movement he concluded that a pendulum swinging to and fro could be used for measuring time, and so prepared the way for the invention of the modern clock. By dropping objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa he demonstrated that bodies of different weights fall at the same rate.
While Professor of Mathematics at the University of Padua (1592-1610), Galileo made his first telescope by fitting a lens at each end of an organ pipe. Later he made a telescope that magnified 30 times. He found that the Milky Way was a mass of stars, studied the Moon and discovered the four largest satellites of the planet Jupiter. Galileo’s observations convinced him that Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the Polish astronomer, was right in his theory that the earth rotates on its axis and revolves round the sun. This view was contrary to the teaching of the Church, and in 1616 he was given a formal warning.
But in 1632, he published a dialogue in support of the Copernicus system that offended the Church by its satire and use of Holy Scripture. He was summoned before the Inquisition, forced to retract his views and made to live in seclusion for the rest of his life under house arrest. While under house arrest, he wrote one of his best-known works, Two New Sciences (1638), in which he summarized work he had done some forty years earlier on the two sciences now called kinematics and strength of materials.