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Galileo

Galileo (properly Galileo Galilei), 1564-1642, a great astronomer, born at Pisa, of an ancient noble family. As a boy he was fond of literature, and of making toy machines. He was educated at the monastery of Vallombrosa, near Florence, and then studied medicine at Pisa university. In 1583 the sight of a lamp swinging in the cathedral at Pisa set him investigating, and shortly after this time he began to study mathematics, and this gave a new direction to his genius. In 1586 he invented a hydrostatical balance, and in 1588 he published a treatise on the centre of gravity in solids. He became a lecturer in the university, and from 1589 to 1591 was occupied in experiments, but offended many by his outspokenness. From 1592 to 1610 he occupied the chair of mathematics at Padua, and gained much reputation. In 1597 he constructed the first thermometer, but his great feat was in so improving the telescope as to be enabled to make many discoveries till then undreamt of. He was formally prohibited by the Pope from teaching the Copernican doctrines, but having ridiculed the accepted or Ptolemaic theories in 1632, was summoned before the Inquisition, perhaps tortured (but this is very doubtful), and sentenced to imprisonment during the Papal pleasure. He was, however, released, and permitted to reside at Florence. He continued his researches, but became blind and died in retirement. For the present Roman Catholic view of his case, see W. G. Ward, Bublin Review, 1871.

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