astronomer and natural philosopher.
Galileo finally manages to destroy the Aristotelian theories of motion, but
perhaps more importantly for what is to come in the scientific revolution he
instigates the idea that mathematics can apply precisely to the world around us
and that we can produce mathematically framed laws that relate to this world.
relation to the reverence granted to Aristotle at this time, Galileos break
with tradition and insistence that we test matters for ourselves is also
significant, as is the support some of his work lends to the Copernican theory.
Taken as a whole his views on motion are certainly not the last word, but they
lay the basis for the more sophisticated treatments to come, especially in the
areas of inertia and frames of reference. Although on the whole Galileos
views are new and radical, he does hold onto the old notion that the proper
motion of planets is circular, and non-inertial, that is they require no force
to keep them in motion; in fact the orbits are ellipses, and both circular and
elliptical orbits need forces.
also is famous for incurring the wrath of the Catholic Church and the
inquisition. Galileo is at first careful about his pro-Copernican views.
Johannes Kepler urges Galileo to step forward and be counted; Galileo replies
that if more men thought like Kepler he would. With the telescopic discoveries
of 1610, Galileo believes he now has proof of the Copernican theory. Clerical
reaction to Galileo is by no means uniformly unfavourable; Cardinal Baronius
famously comments: The Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, but not the way
the heavens go. However in 1616 Galileo is ordered by the church not to hold
or defend Copernicanism. The new Pope Cardinal Barberini
(Urban VIII) discusses these matters with Galileo, and allows him to publish if
he reaches no firm conclusion, the Popes position being that God can make it
seem to men that heliocentrism is correct if he so
chooses, but the bible says that geocentrism is
correct. When Galileo does publish, this position is put into the mouth of the
most foolish character in his book, and the Pope is persuaded that this is a
personal insult. Galileo is tried, and admits his guilt; it is a later
fabrication that he tapped the ground and said and yet it moves as he got
up after apologising. The sentence of house arrest was less harsh than it might
by: Richard P Whaite
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