Born in Pisa, Italy on 15th February, 1564, Galileo grew up with his six brothers and sisters during the Italian Renaissance. His father, Vincenzo Galilei, was a musician, and hence Galileo too was fond of music, sounds and rhythms.
Galileo began his education at 10, when he moved to Florence along with his family. He was an excellent student and a great musician. At his father’s urge, he went on to pursue the study of medicine at the University of Pisa and aspired to become a doctor.
While at the university, Galileo got inclined towards maths, physics and how things functioned. He was always curious, and one of his first scientific observations was with a lamp hanging from the ceiling. He noticed that no matter how far the lamp swung, it took the same amount of time to swing back and forth.
Galileo conducted a variety of experiments based on his realisations, including the speed of falling objects, mechanics, pendulums, balls and other things. He also invented a measuring device, called hydrostatic balance, and published a book entitled ‘The Little Balance’ which made him come into the notice of the scholarly world.
Galileo soon earned the position of an instructor at Florence, followed by being a professor at the University of Pisa and later the University of Padua. He taught the subjects of geometry, mechanics and astronomy. He gave lectures, and attracted a large crowd of followers bolstering his fame.
During that time, Galileo made significant discoveries. He conducted an experiment by going on the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He dropped two balls of the same size but varied weights. They landed on the ground at the same time! This disproved the traditional belief that a heavier item would land first; it stirred rage among many communities.
In 1609, Galileo learnt about the advent of a simple telescope by the Dutch, and went on to invent a far more advanced telescope on his own, to see way beyond in the universe. He focused his lens in space, and made progressive discoveries.
In 1610, he published a paper entitled ‘The Starry Messenger’. It stated that our Moon was a sphere covered with craters and mountains. He also revealed that Venus had phases, and rotated around the Sun.
Furthermore, he found out that Jupiter had moons revolving around it, and about new stars in the Milky Way. His burgeoning work in astronomy made him famous and he was appointed as a court mathematician in Florence.
Galileo soon began mounting on evidences which refuted the doctrines of the Church and those of great philosophers. In 1612, he authored a book ‘Discourse on Bodies of Water’ disproving Aristotle’s idea of how objects stay afloat in water. He also discovered sunspots, contradicting the belief of the Sun having a smooth surface.
One of his findings and research subject to much controversy was his advocacy of a heliocentric universe.
He repeatedly tried to prove that the Sun is the centre of the Solar System, based on a Copernican theory. This was not in coherence with the scientific principles of that time, where people believed the Earth to be in the central position based on the establishment by great thinkers like Aristotle.
In 1616, a letter by Galileo to a student explaining the Copernican theory was made public. This stirred angst among the public, and was against the Church’s teachings. He was brought before the religious authorities and was forbidden by the church from teaching and proving his theories.
Being a devout catholic, Galileo obeyed the orders for seven years. However, in 1623 the recently elected pope who was a friend of Galileo, allowed him to pursue his work on astronomy and even publish it.
Galileo’s findings continued to be condemned when he published the book; it prompted a severe reaction by
the Church authorities. In 1633, he was placed under house arrest for the remaining part of his life.
He still remained persistent and continued to write even though he was turning blind. He sent his written
booklets to countries like France and Holland. He died on 8th January, 1642 in Arcetri when he was 78.
In the years that followed, the Church changed their views on Galileo and his studies. They found them to be true, and expressed regret of how he was treated. Hence, Galileo Galilei was a world-renowned scientist, mathematician, astronomer, physicist and is often referred to as the father of science.