Galileo Galilei

On this date in 1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy. Galileo was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, where he lectured for 18 years. Galileo pioneered the experimental scientific method, building a thermoscope, constructing a geometrical and military compass and building an improved telescope. His observations of the satellites of Jupiter, sunspots, mountains and valleys on the moon made him a celebrity, but his Copernican views were investigated and condemned by the Catholic Church.

Diplomatically seeking church permission, he published “The Assayer,” (1623) describing his scientific method, which was tactfully dedicated to Pope Urban VIII. It took Galileo nearly two years to persuade the church to permit him to publish “Dialogue on the two Chief Systems of the World — Ptolemaic and Copernican” (1632), in which he wrote about impetus, momentum and gravity. The Holy Office banned the book, summoning the frail scientist to Rome for trial. Galileo was ordered to retract his theory and was condemned to house arrest for the rest of his life. Three hundred and fifty years after his death, the Catholic Church “forgave” Galileo. D. 1642.

Freedom From Religion Foundation