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Galileo (1564 - 1642)


Stories behind Great Discoveries

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Galileo Galilei was an Italian mathematician, astronomer and physicist.

He was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa. His father, Vincenzio Galilei was a musician.

Galileo was educated at a monastery near Florence before he went on to study medicine at the University of Pisa. He also studied mathematics with a private tutor. At the age of twenty-five, he became a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Pisa. Later he went to the University of Padua as a professor in mathematics.

A significant part of Galileo's work is related to mechanics (the study of motion and the forces producing motion). He was the first to apply mathematics to mechanics.

Galileo also suggested the use of the pendulum for clocks, and proposed the law of uniform acceleration for falling bodies. He also developed the astronomical telescope, with which he discovered craters on the Moon, sunspots, the phases of Venus, and the satellites of Jupiter. He also showed that the Milky Way was made up of stars.

His work in astronomy led him to support the theory put forward by the astronomer and mathematician, Nicolaus Copernicus, that the earth and planets revolved round the Sun. This was against the belief of the Roman Catholic Church, which held that the earth was the centre of the Universe and that the Sun revolved around the earth. The Church forced Galileo to recant, and placed him under house arrest for the last eight years of his life, for having believed and taught Copernicus' theory. It was only in 1992 that the Church formally acknowledged its error.

Galileo's major works were Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems - Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632) and Dialogue Concerning Two New Sciences (1638).

Galileo died on January 8, 1642.


See also:

'Eureka' - the story of Archimedes and the Golden Crown    |    Who was Archimedes?


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