Today we will explore the life and ideas of the great man that was Galileo Galilei. You might know him as the person who conducted an experience in the Tower of Pisa, where he threw two balls of the same volume but different weights in order to prove that every object falls with the same acceleration. He did prove it, but most likely not like this. It’s sad because it would have been awesome.
This is the 8th part or article of The Beginning of Physics series. If you didn’t read the previous part then you should read it first – The Beginning of Physics: Tycho and Kepler (Part-7)
If you are new then I will suggest you to read this series from the first part: The Beginning of Physics: The Presocratics (Part-1)
He was an astronomer, a physicist, and an engineer and sometimes called a polymath. He was born in 1564, Pisa, Italy, son of a lutenist, composer, and musical theorist. From him, he learned how to play the lute and to be skeptical about an established authority. He’s often called the “father of observational astronomy”, the “father of modern physics” and the “father of the scientific method”. He’s a Rock Star!
When the Galilei family moved to Florence in 1574, Galileo was starting to show some talent in the art of drawing and painting. Although Galileo wished to peruse this for his life, in his mid-teens it was apparent to everyone he would become a man of science. His father, Vicenzo, saw that his duty was to encourage his son for this career. Through the study of the work of Aristotle, Vicenzo installed in his son the importance of independent study, observation, and experimentation.
In 1580 Galileo went to the University of Pisa to take a medical degree, but after a few months, he happened to attend a geometry lecture. He immediately falls in love with the math that was being applied. He started caring less and less about medicine until he asked his father to leave medicine and study mathematics. Vincenzo understood that his son didn’t enjoy medicine, and so he let him pursue his other passions.
In 1585 however, Galileo had to withdraw from his studies due to financial reasons. Some years after he was given a job as a professor of mathematics at the University of Pisa. This was a poor job (a mathematics professor received 60 florins a year while a philosophy one received 600 per year) because mathematics wasn’t considered “worthy of study”. Poor mathematics. It was during this time that Galileo conducted the famous experience in the tower of Pisa where he proved that every object falls with the same acceleration. But as you know, he probably didn’t do it like that.
In 1592 Galileo moved to the University of Padua, where he would become a very famous lecturer. Here he also invented a range of products, and in the 1590’s his products where in demand all over the country. At the end of this decade, however, Galileo stumbled upon the Copernican model of the Universe. He first considered it foolish, but after careful observation with his “Venetian glass” (or telescope) he would conclude that Copernicus was actually right. Galileo wanted to publish his findings especially after the German astronomer, Johannes Kepler, told him to do so. But Galileo was afraid of the Catholic Church, and so he kept his findings in secret.
We will explore more of the evolution of physics in the next part and the persons who made it possible! Please tell me what did you think of this article in the comments!