The Great Scientists Who Gave Us a Vision of Space: 17 Amazing Galileo Galilei Facts3rd Oct 2022
The Italian scientist of the 16th and 17th centuries, Galileo Galilei, is the source of many important discoveries that formed the basis of astronomy and space exploration. Many of them seem obvious to us today, but at that time, one needed an outstanding mind to come to such conclusions and even more courage not to be afraid to fight the established church foundations and publicly declare such radically new ideas. Galileo was tried for heresy and faced life imprisonment, but he did not renounce his service to science and forever placed himself among the greatest minds of mankind. So if you’re ever asked, who is the father of science? Confidently say Galileo’s name. And so that you have no further doubts, we have collected 17 Galileo Galilei facts, which will shed some light on this truly great scientist.
Galileo Galilei Facts regarding his life
Fact 1. He was from a noble but impoverished family.
The future scientist was born in 1564 in the city of Pisa in the family of a prominent musician and composer, Vincenzo Galilei. Several of his direct ancestors were priors (titled officials), and his great-grandfather was elected head of the Florentine Republic in 1445. Galileo had five brothers and sisters, two of whom died at an early age. Unfortunately, art did not bring a livelihood, and his father had to trade in cloth to make ends meet somehow. When his father died in 1591, Galileo started taking care of his mother, younger brother and two sisters and did everything in his power so that they did not need anything.
Fact 2. He could become a monk and a doctor
Until 1572, Galileo studied at a regular school in Pisa, but then his family moved to Florence, and the boy continued his education at the monastery of Vallombrosa. He liked science so much that he became the best student in the class. As a novice of a monastic order, Galileo seriously intended to devote himself to the church, but his father insisted that he enter the University of Pisa to study medicine. Galileo fulfilled his father’s wish but never became a doctor. As a student, he met the court mathematician Ostilio Ricci and finally realized that the exact sciences were his true calling. Unfortunately, three years later, the young man had to leave the university and return to Florence, as his father could no longer pay his tuition bills.
Fact 3. He was a talented poet and artist
Galileo was fond of music, poetry and drawing since childhood and carried his love for the arts throughout his whole life. In adulth ood, the best artists of Florence consulted with him, and his poems are proof of Galileo’s outstanding literary talent.
Fact 4. He had a rebellious nature
Galileo inherited this trait from his father. Even at university, he was known as an ardent debater, always reserving the right to have his own opinion on all scientific issues, even those in which he was poorly versed, regardless of traditional authorities. He refused to wear an academic robe, for which he was fined more than once, and openly opposed formalism, as he wrote in his satirical poem “Against Wearing a Toga”:
I won’t waste words, and I’ll descend from my tower.
I will have to submit to the order that now prevails in the city,
Suffering and gathering all my willpower!
But I swear that never in my life I will not wear a toga,
Like some Pharisee professor:
I would not agree to this even for a golden crown.
Fact 5. Lived with a woman outside wedlock
When he was 30 years old, Galileo met Marina Gamba, a citizen of the Venetian Republic, who became his common-law wife. They had three children: son Vincenzo and daughters Virginia and Livia. Since the children were born out of wedlock, the girls subsequently had to become nuns. At 55, Galileo managed to legitimize only his son, so the young man was able to marry and give his father a grandson.
Galileo Galilei facts – the scientist
Fact 6. Became a Maths professor under patronage
No one can now say whether Galileo would have become a famous scientist if it were not for the patronage of influential people who helped the gifted but poor young man return to university. In 1586, Galileo published his first scientific work, “Little Scales”, in which he described his own invention — a hydrostatic balance, which allows determining the density of precious stones and metals when weighing. This work impressed the science enthusiast Marquis Del Monte so much that he took the future scientist under his patronage and petitioned the Duke of Medici for a scientific position. As a result, Galileo returned to the University of Pisa — this time, not as a student but as a mathematics professor.
Fact 7. Made a tangible contribution to maths
What did Galileo do for maths? A lot. He came close to the idea of relativity theory. He outlined his research on this subject in the treatise Discourses on Dice, which was published 76 years after his death. Galileo is also the author of a famous mathematical paradox about natural numbers and their squares. These developments were recorded in his work “Conversations about two new sciences” and subsequently formed the basis of the theory of sets and their classification.
Fact 8. Refuted the indestructible dogmas of Aristotle
Before Galileo, Aristotle’s doctrine dominated European science and culture. Aristotle radically divided the world into supralunar and sublunar, giving eternity and perfection to the first and constant changes, decay and death to the second. In particular, Aristotle taught that different bodies in the sublunar world have different “properties of lightness,” so some of them fall faster than others. Galileo refuted this claim.
What was Galileo’s view of motion? He believed that all objects would fall at the same rate, given relatively small differences in aerodynamics and weather conditions. In 1589, in front of witnesses, he conducted an experiment by dropping two balls of different weights from the famous Tower of Pisa. The balls landed simultaneously, proving that the falling speed does not depend on the mass of the ball. Subsequently, Galileo’s discoveries more than once refuted Aristotle’s teachings, but for a long time, they were discarded because of the strong contradiction to the world picture deeply rooted in people’s minds.
Fact 9. Invented a prototype of the thermometer
Among the Galileo Galilei facts that often get overlooked are hose connected to phenomena related to temperature. In 1592, Galileo designed the world’s first device to measure changes in body temperature. Did Galileo invent the thermometer? Not exactly. It was a rather primitive device, which the scientist dubbed the thermoscope. It was a glass ball with a soldered glass tube, the end of which was lowered into the water. When the ball is heated, the water level in the tube decreases, and when cooled, it rises. The disadvantage of the thermoscope was its very relative measurement accuracy, since the device did not have a scale.
Fact 10. Derived the pendulum principle
In 1584, Galileo was in a large cathedral and noticed that the lamp above his head took the same amount of time to swing from side to side, even if the swing distance shortened. Thus, the future scientist concluded that the pendulum always takes the same time to complete its oscillation because there is always the same amount of kinetic energy in the pendulum, which is simply transferred from one direction to another. The pendulum law made Galileo famous and was eventually used to adjust clocks. It also made its way into the Galileo Galilea facts collection.
Fact 11. Was the first one to use a telescope for its intended purpose
The telescope is one of the most common answers to the question What tools did Galileo invent? However, it is not true. The first drawings of the telescope belong to Leonardo Da Vinci, and the first working prototypes of the “viewing scope” were created by several different craftsmen at once around 1607. Galileo only modified them. However, he was the first to use a telescope to observe space, and his discoveries made in 1609-1610 turned the perception of the sky upside down.
What are 5 things Galileo discovered with the help of a telescope?
- The Milky Way is a large collection of stars.
- The earth revolves around the sun, and not vice versa, as Aristotle believed.
- There are spots on the sun.
- The surface of the moon is not flat, it has mountains and craters.
- Jupiter has four moons. (Although there are actually 67 of them). Galileo called them the Medici stars, but in modern astronomy, they are known as Europa, Ganymede, Io, and Callisto.
Fact 12. The Inquisition condemned him for “heresy” and belittling the authority of the Bible
In 1610, Galileo combined his astronomical discoveries in the book called “The Starry Messenger,” which quickly aroused the church’s discontent. However, it was another book that really angered the Inquisition — “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican,” published 23 years later, where he proved the truth of Copernicus’ heliocentrism and openly rejected the physics of Aristotle and Ptolemy.
The Catholic Church believed that any scientific theory is only hypothetical in nature and has no right to claim any objective truth and certainty since the human mind a priori cannot be higher than the Divine. Galileo was a rationalist and believed that the human mind knows some truths as perfectly and with the same absolute certainty as nature itself, and in this, the mind is helped by such pure sciences as arithmetic and geometry.
Fact 13. Renounced his ideas not to repeat Giordano Bruno’s fate
Galileo was threatened with torture if he did not renounce his “heretical” idea of heliocentrism. In the end, he would have met the fate of another heretic and supporter of the Copernican doctrine, Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600. But it did not come to that because Galileo resolutely renounced the teachings of Copernicus. His book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican, was included in the Index of Forbidden Books, and the scientist himself was sentenced to a prison term, which was later replaced by house arrest. The final verdict of the Inquisition was that Galileo remained “under strong suspicion of heresy” and must be purged by recantation.
Fact 14. Galileo did not utter the phrase “And yet it moves! (Eppur si muove)”
This phrase, allegedly said by the scientist immediately after his abdication, may be what Galileo is best known for. So, you will probably be disappointed to find out that this is just a beautiful legend invented by Italian poet Giuseppe Baretti in the middle of the 18th century.
In fact, Galileo’s final words at the trial were: “From a pure heart and with unfeigned faith, I renounce, curse, declare hateful the aforementioned errors and heresies, and in general all and sundry errors, heresies and sectarian teachings that are contrary to the Holy Church.”
Fact 15. Shortly before his death, Galileo went blind
Due to the harsh conditions of detention under house arrest, the scientist became blind. An evil irony of fate — the man who first examined the stars through a telescope spent the rest of his life in complete darkness. Despite this, he continued to engage in science and, in his last four years, dictated his ideas to faithful students. One of them, Vincenzo Viviani, also became a famous scientist and wrote the first biography of Galileo.
Fact 16. The church recognized Galileo’s case as a mistake
In 1758, Pope Benedict 14 ordered all books advocating heliocentrism to be struck out of the Index of Forbidden Books. However, Galileo himself was justified only at the end of the 20th century. In 1989, Cardinal Papoor said the following on his condemnation: “In condemning Galileo, the Holy Office acted sincerely, fearing that the recognition of the Copernican revolution posed a threat to the Catholic tradition. But that was a mistake that must be honestly acknowledged. Today, we know that Galileo was right in defending the theory of Copernicus…” In 1992, Pope John Paul II officially rehabilitated the scientist.
Fact 17. The European satellite navigation system is named after Galileo
In 2003, the European Union decided to create its own satellite navigation system, similar to the American GPS. It was named after the great scientist. The first Galileo satellites were launched in 2011, and the system began to provide positioning services in 2016. To date, the Galileo constellation has 24 active satellites out of the required 30, which are located at an altitude of 23,222 km. The system provides global coverage and higher real-time positioning accuracy than GPS (1m vs 3m in the public domain and up to 1cm vs 1.6cm in the encrypted range).
We hope that you enjoyed our Galileo Galilei facts and learned a lot of new things. We will continue the info selection dedicated to the great scientists and people whose names are forever inscribed in the history of science.