Inspiring Lives-50: Galileo and His contribution to Modern Science
Galileo Galilei is The Father of Modern Astronomy. His contribution to observational astronomy was immense. He was one of the greatest scientists of all time, notable for his use of the scientific method in finding out how the universe works. He was born in Pisa, Italy, on February 15th 1564, the son of a musician. He was a promising, intelligent student at the University of Pisa.
Initially he studied medicine. However, his obsession with pendulums, a need to know how they worked and what forces caused them to swing with such regular precision, led him away from medicine. This study led to his first major discovery, that the period of a pendulum does not depend upon the arc of the swing. This discovery fuelled further study, including the development of a pendulum clock.
He studied physics and mathematics of the Ancient Greeks, taking in Aristotle and Euclid. But he questioned Aristotle’s approach to falling objects. Aristotle believed that the speed of descent of a falling object increased with weight, a finding that Galileo felt did not match reality and one that he set out to test. He set up a series of experiments determining at what rate balls of different weight rolled down an incline, determining the position of the balls after a set time and noting that the rate was not related to the weight of the ball. In his text, De Motis, (On Motion), he announced his discoveries to the world.
In 1592, Galileo became a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, where he made further contributions to mathematics, correctly calculating the optimum placement of oars in galleys by treating the oars as levers. He also designed other mechanical devices, a fascination that he pursued throughout his life. Alongside a pump that only required one horse to operate and shift huge volumes of water, Galileo made his telescope, in 1609. With this, he studied the moon and discovered that Jupiter had moons, as well as verifying the phases of Venus and observing a supernova. With all this information, he showed that the universe was not perfect, building upon the findings of Brahe and Kepler. He also showed that the Copernican system was largely correct, in that the earth was merely a planet that revolved around the sun
Galileo Galilei was one of the most influential scientists of modern times, not just because of his use of the telescope and quantification of gravity, his contribution to the scientific method laid the foundations of modern science, giving direction to scientific research and moving it away from metaphysics.
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