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Galileo Galilei

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Galileo Galilei

Galileo was a mathematician transformed into an astronomer. He created the modern telescope based on a primitive model that originated in Amsterdam. Galileo disproved Aristotle's fundamental principles of the universe, which had been excepted throughout the centuries as common knowledge. According to this theory, no change could ever take place in the heavens, because everything in them was made of a perfect and unalterable substance called the "quintessence." However, in October 1604, Galileo spotted a supernova and a new star was discovered and proved to be among the fixed stars, disproving Aristotle's theories.

Galileo's telescopes were approved by the Venetian senators to be copied and openly sold. However, Galileo was threatened when Venice disapproved of telescopes being cheaply hawked on every street corner. He fled to Florence seeking protection under Cosimo de Medici. In Florence Galileo gained many allies on his sun-centered theory of the solar system of the universe. Between 1616 and 1624, Galileo remained content to study without publishing his findings. Galileo grew bolder due to his failing eyesight and by 1632 Galileo's ideas had become common knowledge in Italian streets. Many authorities considered Galileo's findings as dangerously heretical and seditious notions. Under pressure from the church, Cosimo de Medici withdrew his protection, as did Pope Urban VIII, the former Cardinal Barberini, who allowed his Cardinal Inquisitor to threaten Galileo with torture in order to exact a confession of heresy and recantation.

To the dismay of his close followers, Galileo recanted on June 22, 1633. The news was announced to his family and friends by the church bells of the Saint Marcus, followed by the town crier's reading of the text of the recantation. Feeling betrayed, his disciples turned away from him. Thereafter until his death in 1642, Galileo remained a prisoner of the Inquisition, under house arrest, and under the watchful eye of his daughter, Virginia. Secretly, he worked at night on his scientific opus, the Discorsi. He hid his papers inside a globe and was able to get his work to the outside world after Andrea visited him, asking of his health. After admitting that he had recanted from a fear of torture, Galileo gave the manuscript to Andrea, who in 1637 conveyed it across the Italian frontier on his way to Amsterdam, where it could be published and circulated without reprisal from the church.

Galileo's ideals came as a shock to the citizens of Italy and other nations. It is in human nature to fear the unknown. Society was dislodged out of a rut that had been traveled by for decades. Some admired the change, while must yearned for the daily routine which had become a part of their life. A theory completely contradicting the one Italians had excepted, came as an unexpected surprise. This upset many people and ideas and notions were put in motion to dispose of this so-called seditious idea and the person behind it.

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