Term Paper: Galileo His Discoveries and the Conflicts With the Church

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Galileo's Discoveries And Conflicts With The Church

Galileo was an Italian astronomer, mathematician and physicist, who originated the scientific revolution of the 17th century, in Italy. Prior to Galileo's work, physics and astronomy were intertwined with traditional philosophy. Galileo, instead, linked mathematics with these sciences. Galileo's major contribution to science includes: the correct definition of uniform acceleration, the setting of laws of falling bodies, the development of the mathematical theory of projectile motion, the expression of numerous ideas regarding sound, light and heat, the determination of the relationship between mathematics and physics, the role of experimentation, and the challenges of infinitesimals in the analysis of matter and motion (Drake).

Yet, it would be his support of Copernican astronomy and his theory that centered on an immobile Sun and a rotating Earth, that the Catholic Church found heretical, and eventually culminated in his trial and sentencing.

Galileo's Early Life:

Galileo was born in Pisa, on February 15th, 1564, to a Florentine patrician of limited means, who taught music and wrote against prevailing abstract numerical theories of harmony, according to Drake. A private tutor and the Camaldolese monks of Vallombrosa, were Galileo's educators until 1581 when he entered the University of Pisa as a medical student. He began to study mathematics under a family friend, two years later, and began to apply mathematical principles to physics, which produced some theorems on the centers of gravity of solid bodies, as well as a treatise on the hydrostatic balance. Galileo was appointed the chair of mathematics at Pisa, in 1589, and spent the next two decades there as a professor.

Prior to Galileo, physics was treated as a branch of Aristotelian philosophy, as opposed to experimental science. It was believed that heavy bodies fell at speeds proportional to their weights, and that thrown bodies were kept in motion due to some air property or a temporary force placed into them by the thrower. Attempts to apply mathematics to motion, in medieval times, were abstract and did not separate physics from philosophy. Archimedes had published his mathematical laws for static problems; however those of motion were still not solved (Drake).

Around 1590, Galileo wrote his treatise on motion, which disputed almost every aspect of Aristotelian physics. He contradicted the basic principles physics had been founded upon, including theorizing that bodies of the same material fell at the same speed through a given medium, regardless of their weights. As Drake notes, to support this theory, Galileo used Archimedian principle.

Galileo also disputed Aristotle's division of motion into the two categories 'natural' and 'forced'. Galileo surmised that there was also 'neutral' motions. and, he adopted 'impressed force', a medieval idea for projectile motions, that wasted away with motion. By the time his contract expired at the University, Galileo had offended his colleagues, by disputing Aristotle. He is even purported to have given a demonstration off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, showing students and professors alike that speed was not related to weight in anyway (Drake). Despite this continued agitation of traditionally supported physics, it would be astronomy that would lead him into trouble with the Catholic Church.

Galileo and Astronomy:

In his early years, Galileo was not particularly interested in astronomy. While teaching the required subject to medical students, he designed his lecture on medieval astronomical treatise, and in opposite years, on Ptolemaic planetary theory. However, after receiving a copy of the Copernican book, in astronomy, in 1597, Galileo's interest was piqued, according to Drake.

Wilson notes, Copernican astronomy believed that the Earth rotated on its axis daily, and revolved around the sun annually, as opposed to being fixed in a stationary position, at the center of the universe, as dictated by the Church. This allowed Galileo to explain some terrestrial phenomena, such as tides (LoPresto).

His first astronomical work occurred in 1604-1605, due to the interest and speculation of a supernova. Galileo used the supernova to refute Aristotle's docrine of the immutability of the heavens (Drake).

In 1609, Galileo's primary interest was still in mechanics and the laws of motion, though, until he heard about an invention in Holland that was used to make objects appear closer. Later that same year, he had duplicated the invention, and presented to the Venetian senate a 9-power telescope, three times more effective than its rivals. For his work, Drake notes, Galileo received a lifetime professorship and a large salary increase.

A year later, after continued improvements, a year later, Galileo had developed a 30-power telescope, allowing him to discover the mountainous surface of the moon, as well as many new stars and four of Jupiter's satellites. These discoveries were published in his book Sidereus nuncius (Starry Messenger) in 1610. and, were the beginnings of his conflicts with the Catholic Church, with his proof of Jupiter's satellites demonstrating that not all heavenly bodies revolved around the Earth. (Drake).

Galileo's Conflict with the Catholic Church:

Late in 1615, Galileo went to Rome and argued publicly for Copernicus. Angered by this action, Pope Paul V appointed a church commission to examine Galileo's theory of the Earth's motion. It was determined, that this theory was contrary to the Bible, according to the commission, and therefore possibly heresy. Cardinal Bellamine was ordered to admonish Galileo, to abandon the Copernican system, in February 1616. The Commissary of the Inquisition was instructed to threaten and imprison him, if Galileo resisted or if he was ever to ever teach Copernicus' theories again, either orally or in writing.

Although Galileo did not resist, the Commissary was present during Bellarmine's admonishment, and the Pope's threat silenced Galileo for a time, regarding astronomy, according to Drake.

Galileo returned to Florence and turned his attentions to the use of the telescope for navigation, and also returned to the noncontroversial studies of mechanics and motion.

It wasn't until 1619 when Galileo would become controversial once again, over three comets of 1618. Galileo had a pupil, Mario Guiducci, express his views in a book that was critical of Orazio Grassi, a Jesuit of Rome. Grasso replied, attacking Galileo, by using a pen name, suggesting that Galileo still held the forbidden Copernican view. In 1623, Galileo responded with the Il Saggiatore (Assayer). Here he set forth the principles he believed scientific research should be guided by, being careful to avoid giving support to Copernicus (Drake).

Galileo's old friend, Maffeo Barberini, was elected Pope, and took the name Urban VIII. Galileo's new book was dedicated to the new Pope. and, during a visit to Rome, in 1624, Galileo tried to convince his friend to rescind the edict of 1616, which banned the work of Copernicus. Drake notes that although Urban did not rescind the edict, he did give Galileo permission to write a book that compared the old and new astronomies, as long as both were hypothetical and impartial. In 1632, Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was published.

Galileo's new book was more of a sustained attack on the ancient idea that the Earth is composed of a completely different kind of matter than that of the heavens, than an astronomical treatise. In this work, he purposed the concept of the relativity of motion, the idea of inertia, and the concept of composition of independent motion. In addition, he included the law of uniform acceleration, although not developing it mathematically, as he had done so earlier. Despite this, the work was strongly biased in favor of Copernican system, and in it, he explained the Earth's tides by the double motion of the Earth, surmising that no physical explanation could be had for tidal action, if the Earth were stationary (Drake; LoPresto).

This went completely against the Earth-centric viewpoint of the Church, as noted by Wilson.

Although Galileo had trouble getting a license from Church officials to print his book, he eventually did,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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