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Shaking the World with a Birthday

Today in 1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy and nothing would be like it ever was. The great physicist would shake the world by its core and challenge the catholic church. Later in his life, Galileo will be tried for heresy and eventually found guilty. “Eppur Si muove [yet it moves]” were Galileo’s last words before the catholic church found him guilty in 1942.

Galileo taught the Heliocentric worldview, in which the sun was in the center of the universe, not the earth, for which he was condemned and arrested by the church and later tried for heresy. Galileo fought for the truth and was willing to die for it. Galileo was above 60 years old and famous for his mathematical abilities at the time of his trial. Killing Galileo with his fame and age would only have caused unrest, hence the church forced him to admit his “mistakes” publicly, where he rebelliously said: “Yet it moves.”

Galileo didn’t invent the heliocentric worldview but instead expanded on it. The idea of the earth orbiting the sun was first proven by Nicolaus Kopernikus, but that doesn’t mean that Galileo had nothing to contribute. Galilei observed the orbits of planets through his self-built telescope which was the most advanced for its time. With new sight into space, he found the Jupiter-moons Io, Europa, Calisto, and Ganymede. Perhaps it might not seem impressive to find moons, but from the earth, Jupiter appears to be a small star except for the speed at which it travels over the night sky.

Galileo Galilei even had some math and physics up his sleeve. As a teenager, he discovered the laws of pendulums. He supposedly came up with it by laying on a bench in a monastery he visited and watching a pending chandelier in his boredom, but this story was never confirmed. He also studied the acceleration and motion of falling objects. He used a bucket of water as time measurement and rolled a marble down a ramp, which had been marked with incremental steps. As the experiment unfolded Galileo noticed that each time the bucket emptied by one unit, the marble would travel the square of that number on the ramp.

Surprisingly, Galileo didn’t go to university for mathematics, instead, he decided to study medicine in 1581. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for mathematics and physics. Roughly 10 years later, Galileo taught mathematics at the university of Padua in Italy. Unfortunately, the church became increasingly alarmed by Galileo’s discoveries. In the early 1600s, the church warned Galileo not to publish, teach or tell any of his discoveries that support Kopernicus or any worldview that involved the earth’s rotation around the sun. In 1623 he would write the Assayer on the true nature of physics and workings of the world, with it, disregarding the church’s warning against it. Pope Urban VIII allowed to publish it but asked Galileo not to put too much emphasis on Kopernicus. Galileo did focus on Kopernikus. In 1633 Galileo was summoned to Rome and was charged for heresy, yet it moves.

Featured image courtesy of Smithsonian.

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