Galileo, The Ingenious Experimenter

A major concept of the book was to connect the science with the actual story around it. This aspect endowed the book with a lot of fascinating science history and biographical information about the scientists. I particularly enjoyed the stories of how Galileo cleverly overcame the many obstacles he encountered when performing his experiments. Enjoy this excerpt from the book.

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was born the oldest of seven children in Pisa on February 15, 1564 to Vincenzo Galilei and Giulia Ammannati. His father was both a music practitioner and music theorist. Although a number of his compositions were published Vincenzo made only a meager living as a performer and teacher.

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Galileo and The Telescope

By mid-1609, Galileo was working on his treatise about the science of motion, when upon hearing of the invention of the spyglass (the precursor to the telescope) he dropped everything to make his own version. By the end of August, Galileo had a 9X telescope. Around December 1, 1609, Galileo had in his possession a 20X telescope, allowing him to observe the moon’s rough mountainous surface, four (of the currently sixty-seven known) moons of Jupiter, and several new stars.

Galileo, Professor at Pisa

In 1589, Galileo became professor at the University of Pisa making half of his predecessor’s final salary.

Galileo’s Distraction

In mid-1609 Galileo turned his focus away from the laws of motion and pointed his telescope towards the sky.

Galileo’s New Title

Unhappy with his arrangement at University of Padua, Galileo managed to strike a new deal in 1610 whereby he became “Chief Mathematician of the University of Pisa and Philosopher and Mathematician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany”. The appointment was for life and he wasn’t obligated to teach at the university. He also wasn’t required to reside in Pisa, which allowed him to finally return to his beloved Florence.

Galileo’s Private University

In 1599, Galileo acquired a large house with a garden and vineyard. Here he housed students who stayed with him for extended periods (along with their servants), and maintained a workshop (complete with a coppersmith) for the manufacture of instruments. The private lessons he gave along with his university courses kept Galileo very busy.

Galileo and Two New Sciences

In 1634, Galileo, now under guarded house arrest, and mourning the recent death of his beloved daughter, returned to his project of some twenty-five years prior to produce his final masterpiece Discourses on Two New Sciences.