Since the dawn of time, man has yearned to know the origin of existence, how life was started, and the source of creation. Many scientists, from ancient Greece to modern civilization, began the search for answers by first studying our solar system, mapping the stars, trying to unlock their secrets. These eight scientists paved the way for any basic knowledge of the universe. Born in 270 BC, the Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, was the first scientist known to suggest that the earth revolves around the sun. Little is known of the childhood of Aristarchus, as well as his entire life.
His only recorded works come from Archimedes and Plutarch, which discuss his ideas of the movement of all the planets in the solar system. Unfortunately, the lack in technological advances greatly affected his observations, making them inaccurate, especially his geometrical equations. The major contribution Aristarchus is known for is a more precise scale of our solar system. Aristarchus of Samos is honored today with a lunar crater named for him, which is also the brightest point on the moon. Claudius Ptolemaeus, also known as Ptolemy, is considered one of the greatest and most influential astronomers of the ancient world.
Almost all of his observations and works were done in Alexandria, Egypt, the home of the largest library and school of the ancient world, which when found, greatly benefited scientists in decoding the ancient astronomers calculations and theories. The life of Ptolomy is vague, as is the reaction to his works at the time. His system of astronomy, which is in his book the Syntaxis, was accepted as correct until the year 1543 AD. In this system, the earth was the center of the universe, and was the axis of a huge rotating sphere, which spun.
On the outer edges of the sphere were the stars, and the sun and other heavenly bodies were in between the earth and stars. Ptolomy accounted for the movement of the planets using three mathematical constructions: the eccentric, epicycle, and the equant. The eccentric construction is the only one of the three not centered on the earth. The epicycle says that the planet moves in a small circle, which in itself is moving around a bigger circle. The last of the three constructions, the equant, suggested that the center of motion on a large circle was separated from the center of the circle.
The contributions of Ptolomy are numerous, and today he is known as one of the greatest astronomers and mathematicians of the ancient world. The father of modern astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, was born in Poland in 1743. All that is known of his childhood is that his father died when Nicolaus was ten years old, so he was raised by his uncle. Copernicus was lucky that his uncle was a prominent Bishop and made sure that Nicolaus received a good education. He enrolled in the University of Cracow to study mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and philosophy.
After completing his studies there, Copernicus traveled abroad and also enrolled in the Universities of Bologna and Padua to study both medicine and law. After his return to Poland, he was elected as canon, due greatly to his uncles influence, so Copernicus devoted his time to astronomy. In 1512, Copernicus began a critical study of all the proposed models of the universe and decided that the model that Ptolomy was too complicated to be possible. He then created the Copernican system, in which the sun was the center of the universe and all the planets were in constant orbit around it.
But Copernicus deemed it necessary to include two of Ptolomys constructions, the epicycle and the eccentric, to explain The constant variable in the movement of the planets because he believed that all planets were in a circular orbit around the sun. Since Copernicus used two of Ptolomys ideas, his model was about as inaccurate. Before Nicolaus Copernicus died in 1543, he finished his book De Revoliutionibus, which translates to On The Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs. Although unable to prove his theory, the works of Copernicus paved the way for all modern plans of the solar system.
The Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, born in 1546, was the inventor of many important astronomical instruments. The childhood of Brahe was very traumatic, since he was kidnapped at a young age by his very wealthy uncle and together they lived in his uncles castle in Tostrup, Scania. His uncle financed Tychos education, first sending him to the University of Copenhagen for four years to study law. Brahe decided to turn to astronomy on August 21, 1560, when he witnessed a total solar eclipse, which is not totally spectacular, except for the fact that he was fascinated that astronomers could accurately predict the times of these occurrences.
So, in 1562, Brahes uncle sent him to the University of Leipzig, where he stayed until 1565. While there, he discovered that al the exsisting almanacs were inaccurate in their mapping of Jupiter and Saturn. With great enthusiasm, Brahe decided to devote his life to the gaining of accurate observations of the universe, so he could fix the excisting tables, or create his own. For the next five years, Brahe traveled throughout Europe, acquiring mathematical knowledge and astronomical instruments. In 1570, Brahes uncle died and he inherited the entire estate, and an observatory was soon built.
His first major discovery came on November 11, 1572, when he discovered a new star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. His discovery of the new star and his publication of his observations in De nova stella in 1573 marked a transformation from a Danish astronomer to a world-renowned scientist. He soon built a new observatory on the island of Hveen, which he equipped with all of the latest tools and instruments in astronomy. All of the equipment at that time was still used by the naked eye, telescopic having not been invented.
Brahe received help from the King of Prussia, Frederick II, to build an observatory and make as many accurate observations as possible to be recorded. This constituted the greatest portion of Tychos life. He also proposed a slightly modified version of the Copernican system, where all the planets revolved around the sun, except for earth, in which the sun revolved around. Tycho Brahes accomplishments with such a limited source of tools and knowledge is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Renaissance. He died in 1610, and is still considered to be the greatest astronomer before telescopes.
Luckily, he left all of his work to Kepler. The German scientist Kepler, born in Weil, Germany in 1571, was the founder of three laws of planetary orbit in the solar system. After graduating from the University of Tubingen, which is where he learned the Copernican theory, began as a teacher at a Lutheran school in Graz, Austia, but soon left for religious persecutions. He soon becomes the assistant of Tycho Brahe in the Prague. Even after the death of his mentor Brahe, Kepler still firmly believed in the Copernican model. To honor his lost mentor, Kepler attempted to find the orbit of Mars to fit the calculations of Brahe.
The belief at this time was that the planets moved in perfect circular order, but Kepler could not find proof of this. So Kepler used an ellipse instead, and to his benefit, discovered that it worked. Following the work of Brahe, Kepler stated his three laws of planetary motion. The first law stated that each planetary orbit is an ellipse with the sun as the focus point and the other focuses an empty point in space. His second law stated that each of the planets revolve around the sun in a line so that the sun will affect equal areas of the planet at equal times.
These two laws were published in Keplers Astronomia Nova. The final of Keplers laws states that the square of the sidereal period of any planet is directly proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the sun. This law was published in Harmonices Mundi, and can be reffered to as the harmonic law. This law allows astronomers to calculate the relative differences from the sun to a particular planet from the measurements of its orbital. Kepler also discovered that K is not a constant because the mass of the planets, however small, is not quite zeroed.
The next scientist, Galileo Galilei, known simply as Galileo, was born in Pisa, Italy in 1564, and is considered by many scientists and historians to be the father of modern experimental science. In 1570, the Galilei family moved to Florence, Italy which is where Galileo received his education from a monastery. He was sent to the University of Piza by his father in 1581, where he studied and became a doctor. His major studies were in medicine and Aristotles philosophy, although medicine never truly interested him.
He discovered an unnatural talent for mathematics and in 1585, convinced his father to let him leave the University of Pisa and went back Florence to become a tutor of mathematics. In this time of his life, Galileo began to question Aristotelian philosophy and the scientific process at that time. In his spare time, he invented the hydrostatic balance, which measured the specific gravity of an object by weighing it in water. In 1589, Galileo received an invitation to teach mathematics at the University of Pisa, a position that required him to teach Ptolemic astronomy.
He gained a greater knowledge of the astronomical theory, and later became a professor at the University of Padua in 1592. He spent the next eight-teen years. He was convinced that the Copernican theory was correct, and in 1609 created his first telescope, which used magnifying glasses to see distant objects. With his latest invention, Galileo found evidence that disproved Aristotle and Ptolomey. One of his discoveries was that the moon contained numerous craters and mountains, and also discovered four of Jupiters moons, which proved that Jupiter did nor orbit the earth.
He named these moons the Medicine Planets. In 1610, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo de Medici, who appointed Galileo his personal mathematician, a position which required him to move back to Florence. While in Florence, many more discoveries came, one being the evidence of sunspots, which helped to prove the Copernican theory. He became world-renowned when, in 1610, he published his findings. Since Galileo discovered a few problems with the Aristotlian theory of motion, he developed his own theory of the motion of free-falling objects.
In 1632, Galileo published his Dialogue concerning the two Chief World Systems in which he presented his arguments both for and against the earth centered planetary system and the sun centered planetary system. He was then placed under house arrest in his villa in Florence for these views. He finally died in 1642, but his works and thoughts eventually led to the modern scientific process and modern mathematics. Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642 in Lincolnshire, England. He was a premature infant and was not expected to live past one week, but fortunately survived.
He attended school in the local day schools and then later in Grantham, but his true interest was in engineering. He left school at fourteen years old when his stepfather suddenly died, and was forced to help his mother on the farm. He soon became so obsessed with books and studying that he was sent back to school. In 1661, he was accepted into the University of Cambridge and graduated in 1665, which is an accomplishment in itself. Newton soon began pondering gravity and why objects fell toward the center of the earth. He was the first scientist to realize that it could extend for infinity.
He later returned to Cambridge and taught Mathematics there for two years, but left again in 1669. In 1672, he was elected into the Royal Society and constructed the first reflecting telescope, and also invented calculus. He published all of this in two books, Principia in 1684, and Opticks in 1704. Principia contains the first unified theory of space, which includes his laws of motion and gravitation. He also mentions his three laws of motion, which are considered to be some of the greatest contributions to all of science. In 1705, Newton was knighted by Queen Anne. He died a bachelor in 1727.
Soon after the death of Sir Isaac Newton, a quote he wrote of himself was found in his works. It read: If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants. This shows that even after all he discovered he believed that the scientists before helped pave the way more than he did. Born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany was probably the most renowned scientist in History. Albert Einstein was of both German and Jewish descent, a fact that would later greatly influence his life. He had a typical childhood, showing no genius qualities that he is well known for.
He attended public school in Munich and Aarau, but became uninterested in the methods of German education, and would constantly skip school to go into wilderness to read. At age 17, Einstein began an intense study of mathematics at the Swiss Institute of Zurich. He graduated in 1900 and became a patent examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern in 1902. In his free time, he studied scientific observations and in 1905 became a Swiss citizen. The same year, he sent three papers into German Scientific Scientific Periodical, the Annalen der Physik (Annals of Physics), and each became a new branch of physics.
He received his first Nobel Prize for physics for the paper in 1922. His second paper, The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, introduced his Special Theory of Relativity. His third paper was concerned with Brownian motion, which is the behavior of microscopic particles in either a liquid or gas, which later confirmed the atomic model. In 1905, he received a doctorate in physics from the University of Zurich. In 1911, he became the professor of physics at the University of Prague. He then held the same job at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1912.
Einstein was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1913, and in 1914, he again became a German citizen when he accepted the position Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin. In 1916, he published his General Theory of Relativity. While in the United States during the Second World War, the Nazi government took Einsteins house, possessions, and citizenship. He then accepted a position as a staff member t the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he stayed for the rest of his life. In 1940, Einstein became United States citizen. He was also offered the presidency of Isreal in 1952, but declined.
Albert Einstein died on April 8, 1955. While alive, Einstein became dissatisfied with most of the current theories of physics, so he constructed his own. He was the first to realize that all motion and position was relative, and that that the fact that two events happening at the same time was useless knowledge. With his Special Theory of Relativity, he created to postulates for governing it. The first is that the laws of physics must be at the same prospective for an observer through the period of observation. The second postulate used was that the speed of light in a vacuum must also be the same for all observers.
In the theory, Einstein treated time and space as a single-four dimension space-time continuum. The resultant of this is that no object can move faster than the speed of light. Einstein is also credited with being the scientist who jump-started the creation of the first atomic bomb, the item that ended World War II. Einsteins achievements are also considered the greatest of all scientists by many. The history of all the scientists mentioned helps to create a better understanding of the solar system in which we live. These scientists are the worlds keys to solving the mysteries of the universe, which have plagued mankind for all of time.
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