Galileo Galilei - the first known physicist

Many individuals in history have been accredited for numerous accomplishments like Galileo Galilei, the first known physicist. Although he was not considered a physicist in his time, he provided procedures and results that lie at the heart of what is known today as physics. In Galileo Galilei, James MacLachlan explores the personality, thought processes, scientific discoveries, and life of an important figure who helped to shape our understanding of the natural world.

As a youth, Galileo was engaged into mathematics even though his father, Vincenzio, intended for him to become a doctor to support his family off his fortunes. Regardless of his father’s opinion, Galileo had no inspiration in the medical field, but was motivated in the field of mathematics where he thought he could improve on the theorems of levers proposed by the Greek mathematician Archimedes. Growing up with curiosity and determination integrated in his mind, Galileo was unsatisfied with the boring views of philosophers like Aristotle.

MacLachlan gives an example. Natural philosophers taught a set of precepts about the causes of all earthly actions and the nature of the whole universe. They did no measuring, performed no experiments, and made few calculations. Galileo found their explanations of motion unconvincing. He was particularly dissatisfied because Aristotle had concentrated on why objects move. Galileo wanted to know how they move (9). As one could see then, how keen this savant individual could work his mind to evaluate and explore anything that appeals to him.

His work in physics helped remarkably to make experimental measurements and mathematical calculations more significant in all the sciences today. Although he was censored and imprisoned for his radical ideas about the motion of the earth, he continued in his pursuit of scientific truths to offer upon future generations the inspiration to challenge conventional views. As Galileo continued on with his work, the reader senses his problems with the church relating to his theories on the motions of the earth.

After being condemned by the Inquisition for suspicion of heresy, to a friend, Galileo quoted, “The purpose of the Holy Scriptures is to tell us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go” (81). While he was in custody, the Inquisition managed to find something to which Galileo would confess. He admitted to having asserted for the earth’s motions stronger than he had intended. “My error was one of vain ambition, pure ignorance, and inadvertence,” he confessed (94).

However, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, a leading Jesuit theologian, cautioned Galileo against stating that the earth moves and refused to support any scientific evidence that appeared to contradict the bible. At this point, the reader may feel a sense of anger when they read about his trial, since in his lifetime, the bible was very sacred to the Christians, and anyone that debated or said anything that contradicted it was in for a lot of trouble with the inquisition.

As the reader turns the pages of the book, he or she will find illustrations and diagrams of Galileo’s work that the authors uses to defend Galileo’s ideas against other philosophers. Galileo, on the other hand, had too low of a status to be able to contradict the other philosophers successfully. Unfortunately, after Galileo was condemned by the inquisition, few people paid attention to his physics and read his books. In addition to his low popularity, the books he wrote that contradicted the bible were forbidden for anyone to read.

Readers find themselves going through Galileo’s problems and achievements with him. They see what he sees and feel what he feel. Galileo’s biography of achievements and his life in the mid 1500’s and 1600’s provides readers with actual details and real events that they experience as they read. After readers close this autobiography, they will perceive the acomplishments of Galileo and appreciate what he has done to bring physics to the fullest extent as it is today.


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