Galileo Galilei’s inventions and theories changed the way we view the universe. Today, he is regarded as the father of modern science, but during his lifetime he was condemned as a heretic for contradicting the Roman Catholic Church’s belief that the Earth was the center of a perfect universe.
Galileo, as he is known, was a philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. He was born in Pisa, Italy, in 1564, according to Britannica. Galileo went to college to study medicine, but he switched his focus to mathematics and ended up quitting school before completing his degree. However, he went on to teach math, and through lectures and writing he built a scholarly reputation.
His Greatest Achievements Still Influence Modern Science
History.com reported that Galileo made his first important discovery in 1583, when he described the rules that govern the motion of pendulums, which would become the foundation for pendulum clocks. He also invented and improved several other scientific tools that are now considered staples: balances, microscopes, compasses and — most famously — telescopes.
During his time, people believed Aristotle’s theory that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. Galileo questioned this concept and conducted motion experiments that disproved them. Space.com explains that by dropping balls of different weights, he revealed that objects accelerate at the same rate, regardless of mass. These motion experiments paved the way for Sir Isaac Newton to develop the laws of motion, and they pushed the scientific method into its modern form, in which scientists use experiments to prove that their hypotheses are true.
The powerful James Webb Space Telescope and other modern telescopes are the descendants of Galileo Galilei’s inventions. Before his time, basic telescopes existed, but they were only used as spyglasses. According to History.com, in 1609, he improved the design of a Dutch telescope and turned it toward the night sky, a key turning point in the history of astronomy. He went on to publish his findings, which included the discovery of Jupiter’s moons and new stars in the Milky Way, plus observations of sunspots and the moon’s cratered surface.
A Controversial Figure
Galileo drew conclusions that contradicted the Aristotelian view of the universe, which was widely accepted by both scientists and theologians in his era. Instead of following the widespread belief that Earth was at the center of a perfect heavenly world, Galileo exposed an unruly truth: The universe is chaotic, and it doesn’t revolve around us.
His work supported the Copernican heliocentric system, the theory that the earth and planets revolve around the sun, according to Biography. Galileo was a devout Catholic who tried to prove that Copernican theory did not contradict the Bible, but the church would not allow a scientist to say he interpreted scripture better than they did. He was summoned before the Roman Inquisition and ultimately convicted of heresy. His books were banned, and he spent the last years of his life under house arrest until he died in 1642.
Galileo Galilei’s inventions outlived him and changed the course of history of astronomy and physics. The church eventually accepted Copernican theory and removed Galileo’s works from the list of banned books. In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that Galileo was right after all. The universe remains mysterious, but today’s astronomers are armed with both the basic tools and concepts from Galileo’s legacy and the cutting-edge technology of today.