Galileo Biography Essay Outline

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Galileo Galilei was born at Pisa on the 18th of February in 1564. His father,

Vincenzo Galilei, belonged to a noble family and had gained some distinction as a

musician and a mathematician. At an early age, Galileo manifested his ability to learn

both mathematical and mechanical types of things, but his parents, wishing to turn him

aside from studies which promised no substantial return, steered him toward some sort of

medical profession. But this had no effect on Galileo. During his youth he was allowed to

follow the path that he wished to.

Although in the popular mind Galileo is remembered chiefly as an astronomer,

however, the science of mechanics and dynamics pretty much owe their existence to his

findings. Before he was twenty, observation of the oscillations of a swinging lamp in the

cathedral of Pisa led him to the discovery of the isochronism of the pendulum, which

theory he utilized fifty years later in the construction of an astronomical clock. In 1588, an

essay on the center of gravity in solids obtained for him the title of the Archimedes of his

time, and secured him a teaching spot in the University of Pisa. During the years

immediately following, taking advantage of the celebrated leaning tower, he laid the

foundation experimentally of the theory of falling bodies and demonstrated the falsity of

the peripatetic maxim, which is that an objects rate of descent is proportional to its weight.

When he challenged this it made all of the followers of Aristotle extremely angry, they

would not except the fact that their leader could have been wrong. Galileo, in result of

this and other troubles, found it prudent to quit Pisa and move to Florence, the original

home of his family. In Florence he was nominated by the Venetian Senate in 1592 to the

chair of mathematics in the University of Padua, which he occupied for eighteen years,

with ever-increasing fame. After that he was appointed philosopher and mathematician to

the Grand Duke of Tuscany. During the whole of this period, and to the close of his life,

his investigation of Nature, in all her fields, was never stopped. Following up his

experiments at Pisa with others upon inclined planes, Galileo established the laws of falling

bodies as they are still formulated. He likewise demonstrated the laws of projectiles, and

largely anticipated the laws of motion as finally established by Newton. In statics, he gave

the first direct and satisfactory demonstration of the laws of equilibrium and the principle

of virtual velocities. In hydrostatics, he set forth the true principle of flotation. He invented

a thermometer, though a defective one, but he did not, as is sometimes claimed for him,

invent the microscope.

Though, as has been said, it is by his astronomical discoveries that he is most

widely remembered, it is not these that constitute his most substantial title to fame. In this

connection, his greatest achievement was undoubtedly his virtual invention of the

telescope. Hearing early in 1609 that a Dutch optician, named Lippershey, had produced

an instrument by which the apparent size of remote objects was magnified, Galileo at once

realized the principle by which such a result could alone be attained, and, after a single

night devoted to consideration of the laws of refraction, he succeeded in constructing a

telescope which magnified three times, its magnifying power being soon increased to

thirty-two. This instrument being provided and turned towards the heavens, the

discoveries, which have made Galileo famous, were bound at once to follow, though

undoubtedly he was quick to grasp their full significance. The moon was shown not to be,

as the old astronomy taught, a smooth and perfect sphere, of different nature to the earth,

but to possess hills and valleys and other features resembling those of our own globe.

The planet Jupiter was found to have satellites, thus displaying a solar system in miniature,

and supporting the doctrine of Copernicus. It had been argued against the said system

that, if it were true, the inferior planets, Venus and Mercury, between the earth and the

sun, should in the course of their revolution exhibit phases like those of the moon, and,

these being invisible to the naked eye, Copernicus had to change the false explanation that

these planets were transparent and the sun's rays passed through them. But with his

telescope Galileo found that Venus did actually exhibit the desired phases, and the

objection was thus turned into an argument for Copernicanism.

Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his writings discussing the Ptolemaic and

Copernican systems. In June 1633, Galileo was condemned to life imprisonment for

heresy. His writings about these subjects were banned, and printers were forbidden to

publish anything further by him or even to reprint his previous works. Outside Italy,

however, his writings were translated into Latin and were read by scholars throughout


Galileo remained under imprisonment until his death in 1642. However he never

was a real prisoner for he never spent any time in a prison cell or being treated like a

criminal. Instead he spent his time in fancy apartments. The rest of the time he was

allowed to use houses of friends as his places of confinement the, always comfortable and

usually luxurious.


Galileo Galilei

I. Early Life

A. Born in 1564 at Pisa

B. Parents want him to be a doctor

C. Eventually allowed to follow his own path

II. Accomplishments other than in the field of astronomy

A. Isochronism of the pendulum

1. later led to astronomical clock

B. Center of Gravity in Solids

C. Teacher at University of Pisa

D. Theory of Falling Bodies

E. Nominated to the chair of mathematics in the University of Padua

F. Laws of Projectiles

G. Laws of Equilibrium / Principle of Virtual Velocities

H. Thermometer

III. Astronomical Discoveries

A. Designed highest powered telescopes of the time.

B. The moon

1. Not a perfect and smooth sphere

C. Jupiter

1. Four moons of Jupiter

D. Venus and Mercury

1. Not transparent

2. Had phases

IV. Later Life

A. Tried by the Inquisition

1. For writings

2. Charged with Heresy

B. Sentenced to house arrest

1. lived in luxury

2. never in a prison cell

C. Writings Prohibited

D. Died in 1642


1. Drake, S. ,Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography. Greensborough Press, 1995.

2. Finnochiara, Maurice A. ,The Galileo Affair. The University of California Press, 1989.

3. Redondi, P. ,Galileo Heretic. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

4. Reston, J. Jr. ,Galileo: A Life. HarperCollins Publishing, 1994.

5. Segre, M. ,In the Wake of Galileo. New Brunswick Co., 1992.

6. Sharratt, M. ,Galileo: Decisive Innovator., Sanford Publishing 1994


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Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy, on February 18, 1564, to a family of aristocratic lineage but average wealth. When he was seventeen, his father, a noted musician who also earned money in the wool trade, sent him to study medicine at the University of Pisa. Galileo, however, soon turned to a career in mathematics.

A lack of money forced him to leave school in 1585, and for four years he supported himself by tutoring students in mathematics. In 1589 he obtained a position lecturing at the University of Pisa, where he remained for three years, making discoveries that challenged the then-dominant view of physics, which was based on the ancient writings of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Most famously, he discovered that two objects, dropped from the same height, fall at the same rate regardless of their weight. In 1592, he moved on to the University of Padua, where he would remain for more than fifteen years. There, he met Marina Gambi, who became his mistress and bore him three children. He also did groundbreaking research in physics, discovering the law of inertia and paving the way for the work of Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century.

Meanwhile, in the world of astronomy, a great debate was raging between the ancient system of Ptolemy, which placed the earth in the center of the universe, and heliocentric system of Copernicus, which posited the sun at the center, and the earth in an orbit around it. In 1609, after word came from Holland of the invention of the telescope, Galileo built his own version of the instrument. With this new tool, he observed the mountains and craters on earth's moon, and discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter. In 1610 he published Sidereus Nuncius, cataloguing his discoveries, and the book made him a celebrity in Europe.

Using new evidence provided by his telescope, Galileo now began to advocate strongly the Copernican theory. The Catholic Church, however, disapproved of heliocentricity, feeling that it was contrary to the statements in the Bible: if God created human beings as His supreme creation, He would place man at the center of His cosmos. In 1616 the Church sent Galileo formal warning that they considered his theory a denial of Christian doctrine. Thus he refrained from publishing anything about his theories for the next decade, but the ascension of a liberal Pope, Urban VIII, encouraged him to publish the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632, which openly argued for the Copernican system. The Church now accused Galileo of heresy, tried him before the Inquisition, and forced him to renounce his views and submit to the Church.

Galileo lived under house arrest for the last eight years of his life. Yet he still continued to write: in 1638, he published his last work, a compilation of all his research into physics; it was published in Germany, because the Inquisition had forbidden the printing of any of his work in Italy. Galileo went blind in 1638 and died on January 8, 1642, at the age of seventy-seven.

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