You are on page 1of 7

Galileo Galilei

His Early life

Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy on February 15 1564, the first of
six children of Vincenzo Galilei, a famous lutenist, composer, and music
theorist, and Giulia Ammannati, who wanted his son to study medicine
as there was more money in medicine. When Galileo Galilei was eight,
his family moved to Florence, but he was left with Jacopo Borghini for
two years. He then was educated in the Camaldolese Monastery
at Vallombrosa, 35 km southeast of Florence. Galileo became an
accomplished lutenist himself and would have learned early from his
father a healthy skepticism for established authority, the value of wellmeasured or quantified experimentation, an appreciation for a periodic
or musical measure of time or rhythm, as well as the illuminative
progeny to expect from a marriage of mathematics and experiment.
Three of Galileo's five siblings survived infancy. The youngest,
Michelangelo, also became a noted lutenist and composer although he
contributed to financial burdens during Galileo's young adulthood.
Michelangelo was unable to contribute his fair share of their father's
promised dowries to their brothers-in-law, who would later attempt to
seek legal remedies for payments due. Michelangelo would also
occasionally have to borrow funds from Galileo to support his musical
endeavors and excursions. These financial burdens may have
contributed to Galileo's early fire to develop inventions that would
bring him additional income. At age eleven, Galileo was sent off to
study in a Jesuit monastery.

After four years, Galileo had announced to his father that he wanted to
be a monk. This was not exactly what father had in mind, so Galileo
was hastily withdrawn from the monastery. In 1581, at the age of 17,
he entered the University of Pisa to study.

At age twenty, Galileo noticed a lamp swinging overhead while he was

in a cathedral. Curious to find out how long it took the lamp to swing
back and forth, he used his pulse to time large and small swings.
Galileo discovered something that no one else had ever realized: the
period of each swing was exactly the same. The law of the pendulum,
which would eventually be used to regulate clocks. He did some
experimenting with floating objects, developing a balance that could
tell him that a piece of gold was 19.3 times heavier than the same
volume of water. He also started campaigning for his life's ambition: a
position on the mathematics faculty at a major university. Although
Galileo was clearly brilliant, he had offended many people in the field,
who would choose other candidates for vacancies.
Galileo Galilei moved on to the University of Padua. By 1593, he was
desperate in need of additional cash. His father had died, so Galileo
was the head of his family, and personally responsible for his family.
Debts were pressing down on him, What Galileo needed was to come
up with some sort of device that could make him a tidy profit. A
rudimentary thermometer (which, for the first time, allowed
temperature variations to be measured) and an ingenious device to
raise water from aquifers found no market. He found greater success in
1596 with a military compass that could be used to accurately aim
cannonballs. A modified civilian version that could be used for land
surveying came out in 1597, and ended up earning a fair amount of
money for Galileo. Galileo needed the money to support his siblings,
his mistress (a 21 year old with a reputation as a woman of easy
habits), and his three children (two daughters and a boy). By 1602,
Galileo's name was famous enough to help bring in students to the
University, where Galileo was busily experimenting with magnets.

Galileo and the church

In 1939 Pope Pius XII, in his first speech to the Pontifical Academy of
Sciences, within a few months of his election to the papacy, described
Galileo as being among the "most audacious heroes of research... not
afraid of the stumbling blocks and the risks on the way, nor fearful of
the funereal monuments". His close advisor of 40 years, Professor
Robert Leiber, wrote: "Pius XII was very careful not to close any doors
(to science) prematurely. He was energetic on this point and regretted
that in the case of Galileo."
On 15 February 1990, in a speech delivered at the Sapienza University
of Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger cited some current views on the Galileo
affair as forming what he called "a symptomatic case that permits us
to see how deep the self-doubt of the modern age, of science and
technology goes today" Some of the views he cited were those of the
philosopher Paul Feyerabend, whom he quoted as saying "The Church
at the time of Galileo kept much more closely to reason than did
Galileo himself, and she took into consideration the ethical and social
consequences of Galileo's teaching too. Her verdict against Galileo was
rational and just and the revision of this verdict can be justified only on
the grounds of what is politically opportune." The Cardinal did not
clearly indicate whether he agreed or disagreed with Feyerabend's
assertions. He did, however, say "It would be foolish to construct an
impulsive apologetic on the basis of such views."

On 31 October 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the
Galileo affair was handled, and issued a declaration acknowledging the
errors committed by the Catholic Church tribunal that judged the
scientific positions of Galileo Galilei, as the result of a study conducted
by the Pontifical Council for Culture. In March 2008 the head of the
Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Nicola Cabibbo, announced a plan to
honor Galileo by erecting a statue of him inside the Vatican walls. In
December of the same year, during events to mark the 400th
anniversary of Galileo's earliest telescopic observations, Pope Benedict
XVI praised his contributions to astronomy. A month later, however, the
head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Gianfranco Ravasi, revealed
that the plan to erect a statue of Galileo in the grounds of the Vatican
had been suspended.

Revolutionary of science
Galileo Galilei was the most well-known and successful scientist of the
Scientific Revolution. In 1604, by observing the appearance of a new
luminous body in the remote region of space for which no motion of
the stars could be detected, he demonstrated that the remote and,
according to Aristotelian cosmology, static region of space was not
actually static. In 1609, Galileo introduced both the telescope and the
microscope. His first observations with the telescope were published in
1610, in a 24-page booklet entitled Messenger of the Heavens. The
first half of the booklet described Galileo's observation of the surface of
the moon, which he proved was rough rather than smooth. He
professed the existence of up to ten times as many distant, seemingly

fixed stars as were currently known. The second half of the book is
largely devoted to the moons of Jupiter. In 1612, Galileo announced
that through the observation of dark spots on the sun, he had
concluded that the sun itself was revolving. This announcement
spawned one of his first conflicts with the Church, which considered
these findings contrary to Church doctrine. In 1616, the Inquisition
warned Galileo to "abandon these opinions." A few days later, the
works of Copernicus were "suspended till corrected."
Despite enjoying the honors bestowed upon him by the Venetian
Senate, Galileo continued to negotiate for a new appointment in
Florence, where his former pupil, Prince Cosimo de Medici, had become
Grand Duke Cosimo II. When, in March 1610, he published his
discovery of the lunar surface and the moons of Jupiter in a Latin
treatise entitled Sidereus Nuncius, or "The Starry Messenger," he went
so far as to dedicate the work to Cosimo, and even named the newly
discovered moons the "Medicean Stars," after the Medici family. Galileo
was soon rewarded for his efforts at wooing the powerful family: in June
of 1610, he gained appointment as "First Mathematician of the
University of Pisa, and First Mathematician and Philosopher to the
Grand Duke," as well as a sizable annual salary, and exemption from
the obligation to teach classes. He abandoned Venice and Padua for
Florence and Pisa without a backward glanceending his decade-long
relationship with Marina Gambi, the mother of his children for the sake
of his ambitionand while there was great rejoicing in Tuscany, the
Venetians cursed his duplicity and arrogance.

His discovery of the moons of Jupiter

On 7 January 1610, Galileo observed with his telescope what he
described at the time as "three fixed stars, totally invisible by their
smallness", all close to Jupiter, and lying on a straight line through

it. Observations on subsequent nights showed that the positions of

these "stars" relative to Jupiter were changing in a way that would
have been inexplicable if they had really been fixed stars. On 10
January, Galileo noted that one of them had disappeared, an
observation which he attributed to its being hidden behind Jupiter.
Within a few days, he concluded that they were orbiting Jupiter he had
discovered three of Jupiter's four largest moons. He discovered the
fourth on 13 January. Galileo named the group of four the Medicean
stars, in honor of his future patron, Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of
Tuscany, and Cosimo's three brothers. Later astronomers, however,
renamed them Galilean satellites in honor of their discoverer. These
satellites are now called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Calisto. The
discovery of Jupiter's moons was significant because it provided, in
effect, a small model of the solar system. Galileo used the model of
Jupiter and its moons to explore the manner in which the planets might
orbit the sun. The implication of his first observations was to call the
traditional Aristotelian system, advocated by the Church, into

Galileo continued to receive visitors until 1642, when, after suffering
fever and heart palpitations, he died on 8 January 1642, aged 77. The
Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando II, wished to bury him in the main
body of the Basilica of Santa Croce, next to the tombs of his father and
other ancestors, and to erect a marble mausoleum in his honor. These
plans were dropped, however, after Pope Urban VIII and his nephew,
Cardinal Francesco Barberini, protested, because Galileo had been
condemned by the Catholic Church for "vehement suspicion of heresy".
He was instead buried in a small room next to the novices' chapel at
the end of a corridor from the southern transept of the basilica to the
sacristy. He was reburied in the main body of the basilica in 1737 after
a monument had been erected there in his honor; during this move,
three fingers and a tooth were removed from his remains. One of these
fingers, the middle finger from Galileo's right hand, is currently on
exhibition at the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy.