Thursday, January 16, 2020

Galileo Galilei: Man of Science Essay

Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist born on February 15, 1564. He lived in a time when people perceived the earth as the center of the universe and when people interpreted the scriptures literally. He originally pursued the field of medicine, but later gained an inclination towards mathematics. He worked to develop the scientific method and to explain the world in mathematical terms. Today, his inventions and discoveries contributed to the establishment of the scientific world’s foundation. Galileo Galilei: Man of Science Galileo Galilei is one of the most revolutionary figures in history who transcended both religious and scientific conventions. The expanse of his accomplishments cover physics, astronomy, and mathematics, all to which his contributions have resulted in significant advances. He lived in a time when truth was persecuted and religion dictates facts of society. But he refused to remain in stagnation and to accept without question. His works reflected both genius and ingenuity, as his life mirrored the depths that human intelligence can reach. Being a highly celebrated scientist, Galileo has proven himself a man who would always exercise the freedom to think, discover, and create. Life and Writings An Italian scientist born on the 15th of February 1564 in the city of Pisa, Galileo Galilei lived in a time when Europeans have only recently discovered the Americas. He was born towards the end of the Renaissance period. His birth was three days prior Michael Angelo’s death, 72 years after the discovery of the Americas, 43 years before the landing of the Mayflower, and two months before the birth of Shakespeare (Fermi and Bernardini, 1961, p. 11). Galileo, as he is more popularly called, was the son of Vincenzo Galilei and Giulia Ammannati. Although originally from Pisa, Italy and lived there for 10 years, Galileo moved to Florence, his Father’s birthplace, to join his family. He was then sent to the Camaldolese Monastery at Vallombrosa in order to be educated by the Benedictine monks. This religious order became attractive to the young Galileo, as he incorporated the monastic life with solitude and hermitage. He entered the order and became a noviciate, but his religious life was put to a halt as he faced a strong opposition from his father. Vincenzo Galilei had already intended that his eldest child would practice medicine (O’Connor and Robertson, 2002). Galileo pursued his medical degree at the University of Pisa, as he was urged by his father. But being a physician was never appealing for Galileo, and he only took interests on course subjects concerning mathematics and natural philosophy. This diverted his attention from medicine to his destined field, mathematics and natural sciences. In 1589 at the University of Pisa, he became the chair of mathematics. However, after the death of his father, which compelled him to search for more lucrative means to support his family, Galileo took the position of professor of mathematics at the University of Padua in 1592. Until 1610, he taught geometry, mechanics, and astronomy in this university. This period was very important as Galileo made outstanding discoveries during this time in both pure and applied sciences. He argued against the Aristotelian doctrines on the universe and even believed that Kepler’s Supernova of 1604 occurred far from the Earth. He already silently believed in the Copernican claim of heliocentrism (O’Connor and Robertson, 2002). Galileo had three children with Marina Gamba. But he fathered his son and two daughters out of wedlock. The children’s illegitimate status made Galileo decide that his daughters are not suited for marriage and therefore must enter a religious order. They became nuns of the convent of San Matteo Arceteri where they forever remained. His son, on the other hand, later gained a legitimate status and was able to later marry (Life, 2000). Due to his support for the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo faced the Inquisition of the Catholic Church in 1633. The leaders of the Roman Catholic religion convicted Galileo with the crime of heresy. As part of his punishment, the church ordered that he withdraw his support for Copernicus publicly. He was also given the sentence of life imprisonment, but only served house arrest due to his advanced age. By his age of 72, Galileo suffered from blindness due to cataracts and glaucoma. And in 1642, Galileo Galilei died at Arcetri. This was the very same birth year of another physicist, Isaac Newton (Chew, 1996). One of the most interesting characteristics of his writings is that they are all, except for one, written in the Italian language instead of Latin. Although Italian was his native tongue, the more conventional medium of scientific writing was Latin. Two of his most renowned works are entitled â€Å"Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican† and â€Å"Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences† (Kolatkar, 2001, p. 3). He presented these works in a considerably dramatic and lively manner. Here, he told of the story of a conversation among three characters, Simplicio (representation of Aristotle), Salviati (representation of Galileo), and Sagredo (intelligent layperson). His greatest scientific contributions were contained in these literatures. These highly influenced the â€Å"modern scientific thought – ‘its method of enquiry’ and ‘its criterion of truth† (Kolatkar, 2001, p. 3). He was the responsible for the current scientific method that scientists are employing, and which would last for generations to come. His other famous writings include â€Å"The Little Balance,† â€Å"The Starry Messenger,† â€Å"Letters on Sunspots,† â€Å"Letter to Grand Duchess Christina,† â€Å" Discoros Delle Comete,† and â€Å"The Assayer† (Chew, 1996). Contributions in Astronomy, Physics, Mathematics, and Technology Given the title of â€Å"Father of Modern Science† (Finocchiaro, 1989, p. 1), Galileo Galilei has highly contributed to the advancement of science especially in the field of astronomy, physics, and mathematics. He developed the scientific method, which is very instrumental in the methodology employed by many of the scientists after him. This scientific method allowed scientists to conduct experimentations that are quantitative as opposed to qualitative, repeatable, and unbiased (Finocchiaro, 1989, p. 1). In the field of physics, Galileo notably took interest on falling bodies. At the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Galileo dropped a cannonball and a feather. Through this simple experiment, he discovered that the falling objects had the same acceleration despite their differences in mass. He found that the speed is dependent on air resistance and not on the object’s mass, which is now one of the most well known laws of physics (PBS, 2002, p. 1). Galileo’s mathematical inclinations led him to developing a certain method in solving problems. He reduced these problems into ordinary lay terms and adapted them into a common-sense logic level. He used this in formulating analyses and in resolving the problems into simplified mathematical terms. This proved to be successful as he was able to describe and experiment on motion, which eventually helped Isaac Newton in mathematically describing his Law of Inertia (Chew, 1996). Galileo is also known for his technological contributions. Galileo was naturally observant and very curious with his surroundings. He enjoyed exploring and experimenting on mechanical objects. This interest led him to invent a simply designed thermometer, a geometric military compass, and a modified telescope. It is with the latter invention that Galileo was able to explore the celestial bodies. Galileo observed the moon’s surface and found that it has great similarities with the Earth. He also made the very interesting astronomical observation on Jupiter and its four moons and on Venus and its different phases. Using his self constructed telescope, Galileo viewed distant planets and stars, their behaviour and their surfaces. Still in contribution to the field of Astronomy, Galileo described and illustrated the altering pattern of the Sun’s spots. His proposed explanation for this phenomenon is that these changes in the sunspots’ pattern were due to the rotation of the sun. Of all Galileo’s scientific theories, his most controversial was his support for the Copernican opposition against the classic Aristotelian doctrines. The ancient Greeks’ belief of geocentrism and geostasis were taught in all universities and other academic institutions at his time. But Galileo opposed these views as he believed in the Copernican geokinetic and heliocentric theories. This is a highly controversial stand for Galileo as it led to his encounter with the church, which eventually sentenced him to life imprisonment (Finocchiaro, 1989, p. 7). After being sentenced into life imprisonment, Galileo served his punishment under house arrest until his death. But this did not prevent him from continuing his scientific experiments. When he returned to his studies in physics, particularly motion, he analyzed falling bodies, projectiles, inclined planes, and other important areas that are considered as the foundations of modern physics (PBS, 2002, p. 1). The Inquisition As one of the most popular and accomplished scientists in his time, Galileo was not only under the scrutiny of the public but most essentially by the church. It was however unfortunate that the Father of Modern Science did not escape the fury of religious officials against his beliefs. He greatly suffered from his encounters with the Roman Catholic religion, and paid until the rest of his life (Wudka, 1998). At the University of Pisa, Galileo taught astronomy with the required curriculum. He was compelled to teach the geocentric and geostatic theories that scholars of his time accepted. But due to his exposure to a novel theory by Nicolaus Copernicus when he taught at the University of Padua, he became convinced that the earth and the other planets revolve around sun. This is otherwise known as the heliocentric theory that is currently accepted as a scientific fact. His support for Copernicus meant that he was against the doctrines taught by the Roman Catholic Church. In 1633, he faced the historically renowned â€Å"Inquisition† (Chew, 1996). It was in 1611 that Galileo first experienced religious encounters for his Copernican beliefs. Four years prior the inquisition, the Dominican friar named Niccolo Lorini had criticized his views and even filed a complaint against him. In his defence, Galileo argued to the officials in Vatican and to the Grand Duchess Christina that he be given liberty to inquire and defend his ideas in Rome. By the year 1616, scholars proclaimed that heliocentrism is both philosophically absurd and theologically erroneous. Those who advocated this theory were considered heretics. He was ordered by Pope Paul V to refrain from defending the Copernican view and to discuss his beliefs neither in speech nor in writing (Wudka, 1998). The Roman Catholic Church was already experiencing oppositions from different sectors of the society. It was facing battles against armies of Protestants and therefore needed to establish and to demonstrate enough strength against their enemies. With his authority at stake, then church’s leader Pope Urban VIII accused Galileo of mockery against him. This placed the renowned scientist before an inquisition which later convicted him guilty of heresy. He was 69 years old during the incident, and therefore was very physically vulnerable. The church threatened him of serious torture if he did not withdraw his support for Copernicus. Therefore, he recanted his theory and was sentenced into life imprisonment, but instead placed under house arrest. He died serving his sentence and it was not until 1992 that the church apologized for its maltreatment towards this man of science (Life, 2000). Legacy Three hundred years after the inquisition, the church recanted its verdict against the men of science that they persecuted. Galileo Galilei, together with Copernicus and other men, was absolved of the crimes they were accused of. But more than his sufferings from the hands of the church, Galileo has left his legacy in the world of science. He would forever be remembered for his contributions in the laws of physics and his astronomical findings. And most of all, his improvement of the microscope would always be regarded as a revolutionary tool in advancing our knowledge of the universe. Generations after ours would never cease to know his name, as it epitomizes both genius and greatness. Galileo Galilei has carved his niche and would forever be remembered as a man who shaped the modern world of science (Hughes and Shaw, 1999). â€Å"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. † -Galileo Galilei References Chew, R. (1996). Galileo Galilei. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://www. lucidcafe. com/library/96feb/galileo. html. Finocchiaro, M. A. (1989). The Galileo Affair: A Documentary. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Hughes, E. And Shaw, L. (1999). Galileo’s Legacy. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://www. cogs. susx. ac. uk/users/desw/galileo/life/legacy. html. Kolatkar, M. (2001). Galileo Galilei: Father of Modern Science. Journal of Science Education, 6:3. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from www. iisc. ernet. in/academy/resonance/Aug2001/pdf/Aug2001p3-5. pdf Life (2000). Galileo Sees the Moons of Jupiter and the Earth Moves. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://www. life. com/Life/millennium/events/05. html. O’Connor, J. J. , and Robertson, E. F. (2002). Galileo Galilei. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://www-history. mcs. st-andrews. ac. uk/Biographies/Galileo. html. PBS (2002). Who Was Galileo Galiei? Retrieved January 31, 2008 from www. pbs. org/wgbh/nova/galileo/media/lrk_handout. pdf. Wudka, J. (1998). Galileo and the Inquisition. Retrieved January 31, 2008 from http://phyun5. ucr. edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node52. html.

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