Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was born at Pisa on the 18th of February in 1564. His father,
Vincenzo Galilei, belonged to a noble family and had gained some distinction as a
musician and a mathematician. At an early age, Galileo manifested his ability to learn
both mathematical and mechanical types of things, but his parents, wishing to turn him
aside from studies which promised no substantial return, steered him toward some sort of
medical profession. But this had no effect on Galileo. During his youth he was allowed to
follow the path that he wished to.

Although in the popular mind Galileo is remembered chiefly as an astronomer,
however, the science of mechanics and dynamics pretty much owe their existence to his
findings. Before he was twenty, observation of the oscillations of a swinging lamp in the
cathedral of Pisa led him to the discovery of the isochronism of the pendulum, which
theory he utilized fifty years later in the construction of an astronomical clock. In 1588, an
essay on the center of gravity in solids obtained for him the title of the Archimedes of his
time, and secured him a teaching spot in the University of Pisa. During the years
immediately following, taking advantage of the celebrated leaning tower, he laid the
foundation experimentally of the theory of falling bodies and demonstrated the falsity of
the peripatetic maxim, which is that an objects rate of descent is proportional to its weight.
When he challenged this it made all of the followers of Aristotle extremely angry, they
would not except the fact that their leader could have been wrong. Galileo, in result of
this and other troubles, found it prudent to quit Pisa and move to Florence, the original
home of his family. In Florence he was nominated by the Venetian Senate in 1592 to the
chair of mathematics in the University of Padua, which he occupied for eighteen years,
with ever-increasing fame. After that he was appointed philosopher and mathematician to
the Grand Duke of Tuscany. During the whole of this period, and to the close of his life,
his investigation of Nature, in all her fields, was never stopped. Following up his
experiments at Pisa with others upon inclined planes, Galileo established the laws of falling
bodies as they are still formulated. He likewise demonstrated the laws of projectiles, and
largely anticipated the laws of motion as finally established by Newton. In statics, he gave
the first direct and satisfactory demonstration of the laws of equilibrium and the principle
of virtual velocities. In hydrostatics, he set forth the true principle of flotation. He invented
a thermometer, though a defective one, but he did not, as is sometimes claimed for him,
invent the microscope.

Though, as has been said, it is by his astronomical discoveries that he is most
widely remembered, it is not these that constitute his most substantial title to fame. In this
connection, his greatest achievement was undoubtedly his virtual invention of the
telescope. Hearing early in 1609 that a Dutch optician, named Lippershey, had produced
an instrument by which the apparent size of remote objects was magnified, Galileo at once
realized the principle by which such a result could alone be attained, and, after a single
night devoted to consideration of the laws of refraction, he succeeded in constructing a
telescope which magnified three times, its magnifying power being soon increased to
thirty-two. This instrument being provided and turned towards the heavens, the
discoveries, which have made Galileo famous, were bound at once to follow, though
undoubtedly he was quick to grasp their full significance. The moon was shown not to be,
as the old astronomy taught, a smooth and perfect sphere, of different nature to the earth,
but to possess hills and valleys and other features resembling those of our own globe.
The planet Jupiter was found to have satellites, thus displaying a solar system in miniature,
and supporting the doctrine of Copernicus. It had been argued against the said system
that, if it were true, the inferior planets, Venus and Mercury, between the earth and the
sun, should in the course of their revolution exhibit phases like those of the moon, and,
these being invisible to the naked eye, Copernicus had to change the false explanation that
these planets were transparent and the sun\'s rays passed through them. But with his
telescope Galileo found that Venus did actually exhibit the desired phases, and the
objection was thus turned into an argument for Copernicanism.

Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his writings discussing