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Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Airdate May 14, 2004
Curriculum Science
Social Studies

Galileo Galilei launched in BrainPOP Science/Social Studies May 14, 2004.

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Quotables Edit

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Here are some quotations attributed to Galileo Galilei!

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”

“I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.”

“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.”

“I have collected many proofs [to determine that the Earth revolves around the Sun] but I do not publish them, because I am deterred by the fate of our teacher Copernicus who, although he had won immortal fame with a few, was ridiculed and condemned by countless people (for very great is the number of the stupid).”

“Long experience has taught me this about the status of mankind with regard to matters requiring thought: the less people know and understand about them, the more positively they attempt to argue concerning them, while on the other hand to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgement upon anything new.”

Way Back When Edit

COPERNICUS-FYI-Galielo spinning

The Catholic Church famously condemned Galileo Galilei's work, which supported Copernicus's heliocentric model of the universe. That's because the Church subscribed to Ptolemy's geocentric model, which put the earth, not the sun, in the center of everything. Galileo's notorious imprisonment has come to symbolize the conflict between science and religion. But in reality, the scientist’s sentence had a lot more to do with politics than religion.

Galileo and Pope Urban VIII were actually friends. Before he became pope, Urban had backed the astronomer in a scientific dispute with a cardinal. Even after assuming the papacy in 1623, he was supportive of Galileo’s work. The new pope gave the scientist permission to write about Copernicus’s new heliocentric model. But on one condition: Galileo had to treat the theory as a hypothesis, not as established fact. 

Nine years later, Galileo presented his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World. To Urban's dismay, Galileo had broken his promise—spectacularly! The book not only presented Copernican ideology as fact, it mercilessly mocked the pope.

An unintelligent character named "Simplicio" presented the Ptolemaic argument. Simplicio quotes Urban's own words to defend an all-powerful god. His arguments are crushed by the character representing Galileo.

Furious at being made a fool, the pope jailed Galileo. It's likely that he was motivated as much by the personal betrayal as the insult to Catholic doctrine. Galileo’s arrest announced to the world that the bishop of Rome was not to be humiliated.

350 years later, tempers had cooled. In 1979, Pope John Paul II addressed the "Galileo affair" head-on. Finding "no irreconcilable differences" between science and religion, he formed a commission of scientists, historians, and theologians to officially "rehabilitate" Galileo. The committee unanimously agreed: The Church had been wrong to imprison the famed astronomer.

Archbishop Paul Poupard edited the committee's published essays. He wrote that 17th century theologians mistakenly "transpose[d] a question of factual observation into the realm of faith." John Paul accepted the group’s recommendation. In 1992, he officially apologized to Galileo on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Real Life Edit

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When Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II in 1979, he famously claimed that there were “no irreconcilable differences” between science and religion. One of the Pope’s first acts was to form a commission of nine scientists, historians, and theologians to “rehabilitate” Galileo in the official eyes of the church.

Several years afterward, the committee expressed its opinions in a series of essays entitled Galileo Galilei: 350 Years of History. Everyone in the committee agreed that the Church was wrong to imprison the famed astronomer.

According to Archbishop Paul Poupard, who edited the collection, theologians during Galileo’s day mistakenly “transpose[d] a question of factual observation into the realm of faith.” Poupard continued: “This subjective error of judgment, so clear to us today, led them to a disciplinary measure from which Galileo had much to suffer. These mistakes must be frankly recognized.”

Pope John Paul (pictured) accepted the committee’s recommendation, and in 1992, officially apologized to Galileo on behalf of the Catholic Church. Of course, he’d been dead for 300 years, but it was still a nice gesture.

Around The World Edit

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Florence, Italy, is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The center of Renaissance art, architecture, and culture, it boasts Michelangelo’s “David,” the fabled domed church of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the River Arno, the palace of the Medicis, the tomb of Dante Alighieri, works by Donatello, Giotto, Raphael…the list goes on and on.

If you’re ever there, however, be sure to check out the Museum of the History of Science. It’s part of the University of Florence, and it has an unparalleled collection of Galilean artifacts. Items currently on display include:

  • The lens of the telescope with which Galileo discovered Jupiter’s moons.
  • A compass built by Galileo around 1597.
  • A magnet presented by Galileo to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, which supports a 15-pound weight in the shape of a coffin.
  • A set of magnets Galileo used in his studies on magnetism.
  • The middle finger of Galileo’s right hand (yes, his actual finger).

We think the finger thing is really cool, even if it’s sort of morbid. You can also buy a pen shaped like the finger bone in the gift shop!

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