Galileo Galilei was born on February 15, 1564 in Pisa, Italy. Galileo pioneered”experimental scientific method,” and was the first to use arefracting telescope to make important astronomical discoveries.
In 1604 Galileolearned of the invention of the telescope in Holland. From the barestdescription he constructed a vastly superior model. With it he made a series ofprofound discoveries, including the moons of planet Jupiter and the phases ofthe planet Venus (similar to those of Earth’s moon). As a professor of astronomyat University of Pisa, Galileo was required to teach the accepted theory of histime that the sun and all the planets revolved around the Earth. Later atUniversity of Padua he was exposed to a new theory, proposed by NicolausCopernicus, that the Earth and all the other planets revolved around the sun.
Galileo’s observations with his new telescope convinced him of the truth ofCopernicus’s sun-centered or heliocentric theory. Galileo’s support for theheliocentric theory got him into trouble with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1633the Inquisition convicted him of heresy and forced him to recant (publiclywithdraw) his support of Copernicus. They sentenced him to life imprisonment,but because of his advanced age allowed him serve his term under house arrest athis villa outside of Florence, Italy. Galileo’s originality as a scientist layin his method of inquiry.
First he reduced problems to a simple set of terms onthe basis of everyday experience and common-sense logic. Then he analyzed andresolved them according to simple mathematical descriptions. The success withwhich he applied this technique to the analysis of motion opened the way formodern mathematical and experimental physics. Isaac Newton used one of Galileo’smathematical descriptions, “The Law of Inertia,” as the foundation forhis “First Law of Motion.
” Galileo died in 1642, the year of Newton’sbirth.