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Last night as the darkness fell, I looked into the night sky at the entire universe beyond our own borders. The twinkling stars appeared very inviting to a simple glance. As the space probes return to Earth with images of galaxies beyond our own, I wondered what the early pioneers in the space exploration drive would have thought. Galileo, Copernicus, and others were all influential in the drive to explore the heavens.

The light of one’s passion may continuously flicker and be dimmed to near darkness, yet it will never totally cease to shine. Every person has a passion for something (or someone) that drives him to explore new things and find new meanings to his life. As life goes on, our passions change. Galileo had a passion for studying the movement of objects (Physics) and the stars in the heavens (Astronomy). During his lifetime, he was ridiculed, his ideas were silenced, and he was forced to follow the mindset of the day. His passion for physics and astronomy never died, and it still exists in a select few individuals, allowing Galileo’s ideas to shine.

Galileo Galilei, known to the world as merely Galileo, was born in Pisa, Italy on February 18th, 1564. Before his death, on January 8th, 1642, he carved a path in which later pioneers of the sciences would follow. (Galileo, 1) Galileo, a very gifted and intelligent man, was born into a family of wealth and prestige. Galileo’s father was a musician, and he pushed Galileo into the field of medicine. Galileo entered the University of Pisa in 1581, pursuing the fields of medicine and philosophy. (Satillana, 2) However, Galileo’s affinity to the laws of Nature was not easily silenced and his studies were shifted to the field of mathematics. In 1581, at the tender age of 19, Galileo discovers the “isochronous property of the pendulum.” (Grun, 257) This was a factor in Galileo’s discovery of oscillation in the coming years. In 1589, Galileo’s intelligence and determination earned him a mathematics professorship at the University of Pisa. In 1592, he was nominated to the chair of mathematics at the University of Padua. In 1610, he was appointed philosopher and mathematician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. (Galilei, 1) This position enabled Galileo to perform new experiments, which lead to more astounding discoveries.

The controversy around his ideas in the field of astronomy made Galileo famous, however his advancements in physics were also amazing. Galileo performed numerous experiments related to the movement of objects and the force required to shift an object out of the resting state. He rejected the idea of Aristotle and discovered that weight played a key part in how quickly an object would fall. He contributed much advancement to the field of physics and led the way for many others to follow. Although Newton, Kepler, and others provided most of the advancements, Galileo’s presence in this field cannot be overlooked.

Galileo’s presence was most noticeable in the field of astronomy. The stars in the sky above fascinated him and with the development of the telescope in 1600, Galileo was able to “explore” the heavens. In 1608, Galileo constructed a new telescope, with a magnification of 20 (some source say 30) times the magnification. With the new telescope in hand, Galileo looked to the looked to the stars. (Galilei, 1) This lead to various discoveries that shook the values held at his time. In his book, The Starry Messenger, Galileo disclosed the moon was not perfectly round, instead it was filled with numerous mountain and craters just like the surface of the earth, and that the region around the Earth (now called the Milky Way galaxy) is composed of stars. Later books, written on the satellites of Jupiter, the spots on the Sun, and theories on the earth’s movements, were widely ridiculed and denounced by the church.

Galileo was vocal in his support for the Copernican theory of planetary rotation. Copernicus believed the Earth revolved around the sun, instead of the opposing view held by the church. After noticing Mercury and Venus remained whole bodies and were not subject to the phases he saw in the moon, he concluded the moon revolved around the Earth and the three planets revolved around the sun. This was not the accepted view of his time. The world believed the Earth was the center of the universe and the planets, stars and sun revolved around it. The idea of the Earth revolving around the sun was seen as preposterous and Galileo was summoned to Rome to appear in a trail of heresy. The reason for the summons was his refusal to obey a previous order to never discuss Copernicanism. In the Crime of Galileo, Giorgio de Santillana presents another theory behind the summons. Santillana proposes the theory that the Church conspired against Galileo, and was determined to silence him rather than risk a mass loss of biblical faith. Galileo was originally sentenced to life imprisonment in 1633, but the punishment was promptly reduced to house arrest. Galileo’s books were burned and his sentence was read aloud in universities, in order to prevent anyone from following his path.

We are all a "nation of sheep" and it takes a strong person to break from the "flock". If we let other people’s opinions rule our lives; we will have nothing to offer the world. Galileo broke away from the flock and was ridiculed for sharing his opinion during a closed minded era in our history. If he had chosen to remain quiet, the World would have lost an immeasurable amount of insight and knowledge. I salute Galileo for perseverance and determination that he displayed and his willingness to share to his ideas even in the face of opposition. A single drop of water has the potential to cause a great flood, just as a single idea has the potential to cause a great revolution in thought. Galileo provided the idea and others followed in his path, which caused a revolution in the philosophical mindset of the world. In conclusion, I propose to be a thinker like Galileo and follow my theories to my death, but ensure that no one steals my ability to think for myself.

Works Cited

“Galilei, Galileo”. The Catholic Encyclopedia.

“Galileo.” MSN Encarta Learning Zone.

Grun, Bernhard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events.
New York: Touchstone, 1991.

De Santillina, Giorgio. The Crime Of Galileo. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,