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Galileo Portrait, circa 1600

Galileo Portrait, circa 1600 Biographies Famous People Social Studies STEM Aviation & Space Exploration Visual Arts

It is believed this painting of Galileo dates to about 1600.  That was the year his daughter, later known as Maria Celeste, was born (on August 13). 

At the time of this portrait, people did not yet know how to accurately keep time.  Galileo was fascinated with the concepts of time and motion, as we learn from Professor Steven Kreis (at the History Guide):

The key to all of Galileo's discoveries was the accurate measurement of time. Accurate measurement of time was essential if the mechanics of motion were to be explained.

By 1600, there were no accurate clocks or time keeping devices. There were clocks, of course, but none of them were at all precise. Medieval clocks were convenient for dividing the day but not for keeping precise time.

Galileo was fascinated with time. As the story goes, Galileo was attending a religious service at Pisa in 1583. His thoughts began to wander and as he gazed about he noticed the swinging motion of a lamp that hung from the ceiling. It was then that Galileo was struck by the uniform motion of the pendulum.

The pendulum, if kept swinging at a constant rate, keeps near perfect time. Galileo experimented with various sorts of motions and falling bodies. This, after all, was what helped him determine the mechanics of motion.

His observations of falling bodies at Pisa are only the most well known of his experiments. He rolled balls of varying size and weight down slopes with varying angles of incline. He showed that an object thrown into the air falls to the earth along a parabola.

What he ended up doing was casting doubt on Aristotelian mechanics - he challenged the monopoly on scientific education enjoyed by university clerics who had, so he thought, learned nothing since their earliest encounter with Aristotle.


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Quoted passage online, courtesy The History Guide by Professor Steven Kreis.

 

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