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Galileo Galilei, a world-renowned physicist, was born in Pisa, Italy on February 15, 1564. He was the oldest of seven children. His father was a musician and wool trader, who wanted his son to study medicine as there was more money in medicine. At age eleven, Galileo was sent off to study in a Jesuit monastery. After four years, Galileo had announced to his father that he wanted to be a monk. This was not exactly what father had in mind, so Galileo was hastily withdrawn from the monastery. In 1581, at the age of 17, he entered the University of Pisa to study medicine, as his father wished but never completed it because of his keen interest in mathematics and philosophy.
At age twenty, Galileo noticed a lamp swinging overhead while he was in a cathedral. Curious to find out how long it took the lamp to swing back and forth, he used his pulse to time large and small swings. Galileo discovered something that no one else had ever realized, which was the period of each swing was exactly the same. The law of the pendulum, which would eventually be used to regulate clocks, made Galileo Galilei instantly famous. In 1592, he was appointed to the position of a mathematician at the University of Padua and it was during his time, he began his work on the telescope. While in Padua, he met Marina Gamba and in 1600 their daughter Virginia was born. In 1601 they had another daughter Livia and in 1606 a son Vincenzo.
Galileo’s research was specialized in the motion of inclined planes, motion of the pendulum and the motion of freely falling bodies. He is known for his breakthrough discoveries and also his controversial beliefs which allowed for a more modern and practical science. Galileo was the first person to direct a refractive telescope out into the night sky and he decided to study the Moon. One of his largest discoveries was that there were four moons orbiting Jupiter. Another one of Galileo’s observations through his telescope was that the planet Venus went through phase changes similar to our Moon. Galileo had noticed that the observable size of Venus as seen through his telescope is related to the position of the planet relative to the Sun. This observation had pushed Galileo to believe that the Earth and other planets had to revolve around the Sun or it would not be feasible for Venus to have a phase change. This is known as the Copernican System.
For Galileo Galilei, saying that the Earth went around the Sun changed everything since he was contradicting the teachings of the Church. While some of the Church’s mathematicians wrote that his observations were clearly correct, many members of the Church believed that he must be wrong and accused him of committing “heresy”, which was a very serious matter. However, Galileo was found innocent of all charges but was cautioned not to teach the Copernican System. In 1634, while Galileo was under house arrest, his daughter, Virginia died. At this time he began work on his final book, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations concerning Two New Sciences. This book was smuggled out of Italy and published in Holland. Galileo died early in 1642. Due to his conviction, he was buried obscurely in 1737.