Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, Italy. Galileo pioneered "experimental scientific method" and was the first to use a refracting telescope to make important astronomical discoveries.
In 1609 Galileo learned of the invention of the telescope in Holland. From the barest description he constructed a vastly superior model. Galileo made a series of profound discoveries using his new telescope, including the moons of the planet Jupiter and the phases of the planet Venus (similar to those of Earth's moon).
As a professor of astronomy at University of Pisa, Galileo was required to teach the accepted theory of his time that the sun and all the planets revolved around the Earth. Later at University of Padua he was exposed to a new theory, proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus, that the Earth and all the other planets revolved around the sun. Galileo's observations with his new telescope convinced him of the truth of Copernicus's sun-centered or heliocentric theory.
Galileo's support for the heliocentric theory got him into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1633 the Inquisition convicted him of heresy and forced him to recant (publicly withdraw) his support of Copernicus. They sentenced him to life imprisonment, but because of his advanced age allowed him serve his term under house arrest at his villa in Arcetri outside of Florence.
Galileo's originality as a scientist lay in his method of inquiry. First he reduced problems to a simple set of terms on the basis of everyday experience and common-sense logic. Then he analyzed and resolved them according to simple mathematical descriptions. The success with which he applied this technique to the analysis of motion opened the way for modern mathematical and experimental physics. Isaac Newton used one of Galileo's mathematical descriptions, "The Law of Inertia," as the foundation for his "First Law of Motion."
Galileo became blind at the age of 72. His blindness has often been attributed to damage done to his eyes by telescopic observations he made of the Sun in 1613. The truth is he was blinded by a combination of cataracts and glaucoma. Galileo died at Arcetri in 1642the year Isaac Newton was born.
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Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo: Including the Starry Messenger (1610 Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina)
by Galileo Galilei and translated by Stillman Drake
Galileo's development of a telescope and his unorthodox opinions as a philosopher of science were the central concerns of his career and the subjects of the four writings included in this book. He addressed these writings to contemporary laymen. Stillman Drake's introductory essay places them in their biographical and historical context.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican
by Galileo Galilei and translated by Stillman Drake
Galileo's comparison to the two competing views of the universe during his time.
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
by Dava Sobel
This book tells Galileo's story within the context of the 124 surviving letters to the scientist from and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, whom Galileo describes as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and tenderly attached to me." The book includes extensive detail on Galileo's family. I highly recommend this excellent work.
Galileo: Astronomer and Physicist
by Paul W. Hightower
An account of Galileo's trial, conviction of heresy, and imprisonment for teaching and writing about scientific theories that went against the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Hightower recounts the key aspects of Galileo's life and makes plain how revolutionary his ideas and inventions were. An activities section provides instructions for making a telescope, a thermometer, doing gravity experiments, using a pendulum.
NOVA - Galileo's Battle for the Heavens
Produced by WGBH Boston
Based on Dava Sobel's best-selling biography Galileo's Daughter, this two-hour film offers a vivid re-imagining of Galileos incredible achievements that forever changed the way we view our place in the universe. It also investigates the momentous personal and spiritual conflicts Galileo facedespecially in defending the theory that the earth revolves around the sun.
Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants
Produced by HBO The Inventors' Specials
This hour-long video for young viewers portrays Galileo forced to take on a young student, the spoiled son of the de Medici family. First bored with his new surroundings, the prince develops a keen interest in Galileo's inventions, including the telescope. Won 2 daytime TV Emmys.
NOVA - Genius: The Science of Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Galileo
Produced by WGBS Boston
An excellent collection of four Nova programs about the lives and work of four of the most influential scientists in history: Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Galileo. Originally aired in 1974.
The Galileo Project
Rice University, USA
Institute and Museum of the History of Science of Florence, Italy