Galileo, an Italian physicist, and astronomer was born at Pisa on February 15, 1564, and died at Arcetri, near Florence, January 8, 1642. In 1581 he entered the University of Pisa to study medicine and the Aristotelian philosophy, but soon abandoned medicine for mathematics and physical science.
In 1585 he left the university and went to Florence to study under Otilio Ricci. He was a professor of mathematics at Pisa 1589-91, and at Padua 1592-1610, lecturing there to crowds of enthusiastic pupils from all over Europe. In 1610 Cosmo II, grand duke of Tuscany, appointed him a philosopher and mathematician at the Florentine court, thus relieving him of all academic routine and enabling him to devote himself entirely to his scientific investigations.
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Galileo’s opposition to the Ptolemaic cosmology first brought him under the suspicion of the Inquisition in 1611, though he continued his investigations and publicly defended the Copernican system. In a letter to Ms friend Father Castelli, dated Dec. 21, 1613, he maintained that the theologian, instead of trying to restrict scientific investigation on Biblical grounds, should make it his business to reconcile the phraseology of the Bible with the results of science.
In 1615 a copy of this letter was produced before the Inquisition, with the result that the following year Galileo was warned by the pope to desist from his heretical teachings on the pain of imprisonment.
In 1632 he again drew the attention of the Inquisition by publishing a defense of the Copernican system. After a long and wearisome trial, he was condemned on June 22, 1633, solemnly to abjure his scientific creed on bended knees. This he did under threats of torture, but whether he was actually put to the torture is still a mooted question.
He was also sentenced to indeterminate imprisonment, but this was soon commuted to the residence at Sienna, and the following December he was allowed to return to his villa at Arcetri, though he remained under the surveillance of the Inquisition. In 1637 he became totally blind.
Galileo’s chief contributions to science are his formulation of the laws governing falling bodies, the invention of the telescope, the discovery of the isochronism of the pendulum, and numerous astronomical discoveries, including the phases of Venus, four satellites of Jupiter, and the spots on the sun. His works were stricken from the Index in 1835. The most important are The System of the World, in Four Dialogues (Florence, 1632); and Mathematical Discourses and demonstrations touching two new Sciences (Leyden, 1638).
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