Galileo, Galileo!

By: Cassie Burris

Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer from the 1600s who caused a major controversy with the Catholic Church. On April 12, 1633, Galileo was tried and found guilty of heresy against the Church. The greatest irony of all is that he wanted to be a priest as a young man, but was guided into the medical field by his father. After observing a chandelier swing back and forth and having the strong desire to calculate why it swung in that manner, young Galileo convinced his father to allow him to switch to mathematics and astronomy.

So, how could a man who was devoted to the church commit heresy? When Galileo first came onto the scene as a young astronomer he was honored for his revolutionary work. He invented an instrument, now known as a telescope, which would allow people to see stars and planets closer. He also tracked the movement of Jupiter and its moons. He was praised by everyone, including the Catholic Church.

After using his telescope during many nights of tracking, he came to agree with his predecessor, Nicolaus Copernicus (an astronomer from the 1500s) that everything in our solar system did not revolve around the earth (geocentric), but instead revolved around the sun (heliocentric). Scandalous. When Galileo first started to spread his claim the Church issued a warning: unless he had actual proof to back his claim Galileo would have to stop talking about heliocentric nonsense as fact rather than theory. It was during this time the Church allowed an edited version of Copernicus’ book .On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres to be published.

At first Galileo agreed to these terms, but did what any scientist searching for the truth would do, he did more research. He turned his attention to the ocean where he studied the tides. What caused the tides? At the time he came to the conclusion that the tides must be caused by the Earth spinning around the sun, thus sloshing the water back and forth as it moved.

Six years after his first meeting with the Church he published a book, Dialogue on the Two World Systems, which used his research to support the idea of a heliocentric solar system. The Church was livid. They sent for Galileo, and he was sent before a judge and tried for heresy. As punishment, his book was banned and he was sentenced to one night in jail. After his one night in jail he was to be on house arrest for the rest of his life. In 1992, Pope John Paul II reexamined the case of Galileo and officially pardoned him.

Want to learn more? Read more here!
World History Grades 9-12 Questions:

During the 1600s, the idea of the earth traveling around the sun was controversial. What are some scientific ideas that are controversial today? What makes them controversial?


Posted April 13, 2017
Topics: Air & Space

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