Badass Scientist of the Week: Galileo Galilei
Often called the father of modern science, Galileo (1564–1642) was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. He was born in Pisa, Italy, in the same year as Shakespeare and on the day of Michelangelo’s death. He went to university to become a doctor, but fell in love with mathematics and ended up becoming a professor of mathematics and philosophy. In 1609, he heard of the invention of the spyglass in Holland and basically decided that he could build a better one, and later that year he presented a telescope of 20x magnification to the Doge of Venice, who immediately saw its value for military and naval operations. However, Galileo soon turned his invention to the skies—and before the year was out, he’d found that the moon was craterous rather than smooth, and discovered the four largest moons of Jupiter. The publication of these findings brought him fame and a job as court mathematician in Florence, but it also brought him trouble. At the time, Aristotle’s ideas were taken for granted as the fundamental laws of physics, but Galileo argued against them, especially the view that the solar system is geocentric. With the telescope, he was able to confirm the heliocentric model—but his findings angered the Roman Catholic Church, who saw him as a threat. In 1616, they declared the heliocentric model heretical, and after an Inquisition, they eventually put Galileo under house arrest in 1633 (partly due to Galileo’s biting sarcasm and ego). He died in 1642, aged 77, but left incredible scientific advancement in his wake, having cracked open the skies and given us an eye into the universe.