Saturday, April 21, 2012

Galileo; Starry Messenger

Today was a day for reading, and so much reading. 

I do not have the luxury of stretching this lesson out over weeks as there are so few weeks left. Why they schedule a lesson a week and then take 4 of them away for vacation time is beyond me. I can never catch up and always feel like I am failing. That loss of those four weeks and then the occasional lesson that takes longer than planned, like the crystal radio lesson gives me the feeling that I am swimming upstream.

So today we begin our journey into space, beginning with Galileo, one of the world's greatest astronomers that fought valiantly to express his own theories only to eventually be overcome by the Catholic church and their quest to silence him. 
Fortunately he did not suffer as many condemned heretics did at the hand of the Inquisition, by burning. He was placed instead under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

BJ read "Along came Galileo".

 O read "Starry Messenger"
They say he was born on Feb 15, 1564, with stars in his eyes. Destined to be a doctor by his father, he instead chose the stars. Always a free thinker he looked beyond established facts of the day and sought his own truth. Hated by many  those thoughts he was also admired by others. He did not believe as Aristotle taught 1500 years earlier, that the Earth was the center of the universe. Instead he explored and theorized that the sun was the center.

Galileo grew up during a time rich with intelligent minds. It was the end of the Renaissance period (1400-1600), where there was an explosion of works by artists, writers, musicians, scholars and architects.

During his life he invented or improved on inventions that we still employ in some form today; the microscope, the telescope, the geometric compass, the hydrostatic balance, the pendulum, the thermometer, a machine to irrigate fields are some of his contributions.
Replica of one of Galileo's telescopes               Galileo's geometrical and military compass
Copernicus, an ancient astronomer was a great influence in Galileo's life and to some extent the cause of his incarceration later. Copernicus also held the unpopular belief that the sun was the center of the universe and wrote those thoughts in a book, "On the Revolution of Heavenly Bodies" but did not allow the publication of the book until was dying in 1543 as he had no wish to be condemned by the church.

With the invention of the telescope Galileo's time became more focused on the heavens. He charted the skies and sun spots (which subsequently lead to his blindness years later). Night after night he followed the moon and the planets with his telescope. Carefully chartering all that he saw he composed his discoveries into a 24 page pamphlet that was published March 1610. It was called 'The Starry Messenger". Only 500 copies were originally published and they sold out immediately. More were printed due to the high demand.

He wrote many other books and pamphlets that were well received by scholars but not the church. One such book was " A Dialogue on Two World Systems".  It was meant to be written as though it were a four day discussion between three men on the two chief beliefs of the system of the world; the earth being the center or the sun being the center. It was published Feb 1632. The church  became enraged, ordered a cessation to the printing and ordered Galileo to appear before the Inquisition on charges of heresy. He appeared 4 times before sentencing. During the last trial he was forced to recant his statements and sign a paper stating so. Two days later he was sentenced to prison for life. He was 68 years old. All copies of the Dialogue were ordered to be burned.

Much to the irritation of Galileo enemies his "prison" was a small farm he owned in Arcetri, in the hills behind Florence close to the convent where his daughters lived. He was to have no visitors, which at first was the rule but eventually he began to have visitors from all over Europe.

In 1637 he went blind, Jan 8, 1642 Galileo died. Isaac Newton was born the same year. He built his theory about gravitation on Galileos ideas as well as his famous "Laws of Motion"

In 1822 the church lifted the ban on Galileo's works.
In 1979 Pope John Paul II said the church had wronged Galileo.
In 1984 the Pope's Academy of Science cleared Galileo's name absolutely. (about time I should say)

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