Essay by ages_1College, UndergraduateA+, November 2002

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Galileo was an Italian physicist and astronomer who initiated the scientific

revolution that flowered in the work of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. Born

Galileo Galilei, his main contributions were, in astronomy, the use of the telescope in

observation and the discovery of sunspots, lunar mountains and valleys, the four largest

satellites of Jupiter, and the phases of Venus. In physics, he discovered the laws of falling

bodies and the motions of projectiles. In the history of culture, Galileo stands as a symbol

of the battle against authority for freedom of inquiry.

Galileo was born near Pisa, on February 15, 1564. His father, Vincenzo Galilei,

played an important role in the musical revolution from medieval polyphony to harmonic

modulation. Galileo was taught by monks at Vallombrosa and then entered the University

of Pisa in 1581 to study medicine. He soon turned to philosophy and mathematics,

leaving the university without a degree in 1585.

For a time he tutored privately and wrote

on hydrostatics and natural motions, but he did not publish any of this. In 1589 he

became professor of mathematics at Pisa, where he is reported to have shown his students

the error of Aristotle's belief that speed of fall is proportional to weight, by dropping two

objects of different weight simultaneously from the Leaning Tower. His contract was not

renewed in 1592, probably because he contradicted Aristotelian professors. The same

year, he was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the University of Padua, where he

remained until 1610.

At Padua, Galileo invented a calculating compass for the practical

solution of mathematical problems. He turned from physics to measurements, he

discovered the law of falling bodies and of the parabolic path of projectiles, and he also

studied the motions of pendulums, and investigated mechanics and the strength...