In anticipation of the world premiere of the Galileo: Scientist, Scholar, Visionary exhibition in February 2021 we would like share with you some of our most intriguing findings about the Italian scientist, astronomer and mathematician. While some of these facts are obscure, Galileo’s discoveries four centuries ago enabled great paradigm shifts in science, and paved the way for space travel in the 20th and 21st Centuries.
With so many of us having experienced lockdown due to the Coronavirus this year, it is no surprise that home-baked bread has become a global trend.
In 2013 the British Museum asked renowned chef, Giorgio Locatelli, to recreate a loaf of bread based on an archaeological discovery from Herculaneum in 1930. The carbonised loaf found, scored into eight sections, looks very similar to a modern round loaf, and the ingredients are still used in breadmaking today.
You can watch the video and make the recipe yourself to get a taste of Ancient Rome. Buon appetito!
Did you know that the word technology has its origins in the Ancient Greek word, techne?
Over 2000 years ago the Ancient Greek natural philosopher Aristotle (384–322BC) used the term techne in his teachings to describe the crafts and sciences, most notably through mathematics.
The concept of science in this ancient world view focused on the causes of change, such as the reason that metal turns red when heated or why heavy objects fall towards the Earth.
Aristotle’s science was more of a philosophy as it could not be easily measured and was based on theories made from general observations of nature. Aristotle, who was a student of Plato, had nothing against practical knowledge. He simply placed more importance on theorising than experimentation.
Archimedes of Syracuse (287-212BC), who many consider to be the father of science, applied techne to machines and inventions with a focus on experiments. Italian scientist, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galileo (1564-1642) was greatly influenced by the practical applications of Archimedes’ work and once said of him:
“One could flow through life with ease if they could just remember the teachings of Archimedes”.
One of the many things that history teaches us is the importance of perspective.
When a series of outbreaks of bubonic plague ravaged northern and central Italy from 1629 – 1631 Galileo, who lived in Tuscany, was forced into quarantine. A friend of Galileo’s reflected on the three year period feeling “like a thousand years.”
In 1633, Galileo book Two Systems was banned by the Catholic Church and he was accused of heresy for using science to prove the Copernican theory that the Sun is at the centre of our Solar System. His journey to Rome to attend the trial took over three weeks and included mandatory quarantine.
Galileo was found guilty of ‘suspected heresy’ and sentenced to house arrest for life. During this time his daughter Virginia, who had become a nun in a nearby convent, cared for him remotely by sending him remedies to prevent him from contracting the plague and also regular correspondence to cheer him up.
Living and working through the challenges posed by a pandemic are certainly not new, but we are able to glean some inspiration and knowledge by being attentive students of history. At the very least, we should appreciate that our struggles, and the ways to get through them, are neither new nor unique. The most effective of these now during the COVID19 pandemic, as in Galileo’s time, rely on all communities working together and supporting those who are most vulnerable and struggling the most.
Since the dawn of technology, humans have sought ways of using machines and inventions to make work easier. Even though we can use machines to create mechanical advantage, it is sadly not possible for any machine to produce more energy than is put into it. As Albert Einstein put it, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another”.
Galileo Galilei never explicitly expressed his thoughts on perpetual motion machines, however, we can see from several of his lecture notes, made while a professor at the University of Padua in Venice, that he clearly understood that perpetual motion machines are indeed not possible. As he eloquently put it, “Nature cannot be deceived”.
When discussing this principle, Galileo used the analogy of drawing water from a well by hand with a bucket. He conjectured, “whoever believes they are able to draw a greater amount of water from a well, in the same time, with the same force is in grave error”.
Four hundred years ago Galileo made a discovery that fundamentally shaped our understanding of the universe and our place in it. Using his powerful telescope he observed that the planet Jupiter had moons, which he initially thought to be planets.
In March 1610, Galileo published his discoveries of Jupiter’s satellites and other celestial observations in Siderius Nuncius (The Starry Messenger). The scientific proof supported the Copernican heliocentric theory that the Sun is at the centre of the Universe, not the Earth.
NASA’s recently published photos, taken by the Juno Jupiter probe in December 2019, have provided us exciting new insights into the largest moon in the solar system.
According to Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, the mapping of the north polar regions of the icy satellite Ganymede in infrared light has revealed a “phenomenon that we have been able to learn about for the first time with Juno because we are able to see the north pole in its entirety. The data show the ice at and surrounding Ganymede’s north pole has been modified by the precipitation of plasma.”
Have you ever wondered why a boat made of steel floats in water while a solid bar of steel sinks?
You might also wonder how the measurement of heat is related to buoyancy.
At the start of the 17th Century, scientists wracked their brains to find a way to accurately detect the temperature of a body, air, and liquid. The thermometer was the answer. The principle of buoyancy on which it is based was discovered by Archimedes of Syracuse however, Galileo developed experiments to prove that the density of a liquid changes in proportion to its temperature.
The earliest design of these instruments attributed to Galileo is known as a thermoscope and dates back to 1597.
Many instruments designed by the Accademia del Cimento, Europe’s first society exclusively dedicated to Science, are on display at the Galileo Museum in Florence.
As we know today, temperature measurement is important for medical practice, manufacturing, and scientific research.
Photo: A very delicate glass spiral thermometer designed by the Accademia del Cimento, of which Galileo was a member, is on display at the Galileo Museum in Florence.
Did you know that Galileo read people’s horoscopes as a side business?
In Europe during the late Renaissance Astrology played a very important role for many people and was highly regarded as a “science” alongside Astronomy and Mathematics.
Military generals and noblemen would choose a particular date for their wedding or plan an important battle on a specific ‘lucky day’ based on their horoscope readings.
This is where the term if the stars align, meaning if everything goes really well, comes from.
In Galileo’s time, clocks weren’t very accurate or reliable. They were regulated by small rods driven back and forth by a weight attached to a cord. The clock’s speed was adjusted by moving the small weights that hung from the rod.
Following the death of Galileo’s father in 1591 the famous French polymath Marin Marsenne, who was a good friend of the family, kept in contact with Galileo. The two corresponded for many years discussing their academic research and scientific discoveries. Marsenne later shared Galileo’s work on the motion of pendulums with Dutch physicist Christian Huygens, whose improved design resulted in the first pendulum clocks being built in the 17th Century.
What does the massive eruption of a volcano in Alaska 2000 years ago have to do with the rise of the Roman Empire? Quite a lot according to scientific research published this week.
Researchers used historical accounts and analyses of ice cores and the geochemistry of tephra, which are natural preservers of the Earth’s history, as evidence that the eruption of Alaska’s Okmok volcano in 43 BCE caused global climatic changes.
These changes sparked the period’s political and social unrest on the other side of the world and ultimately changed the course of history.
Among the best known and important political events in the history of western civilization is the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. This triggered a 17-year power struggle that ultimately ended the Roman Republic and led to the rise of the Roman Empire. At this time the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom also fell.
Written sources describe unusual climate, crop failures and disruption to the seasonal flooding of the Nile in Egypt, famine, disease, and social unrest in the Mediterranean in the two years following the eruption.
Joe Manning, a professor of classics at Yale University and a scholar of ancient Egyptian history says the new research “allows us to rethink ancient history especially with regard to the environment and climate.”
When scientist and polymath, Isaac Newton famously said “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants“, one of the giants he was referring to was Galileo.
Newton (1643-1727), who emerged as one of the greatest minds of the 17th century, discovered the laws of motion and described gravity.
A century earlier Galileo proved that objects fall at the same speed regardless of their mass. Newton understood that this phenomenon also worked in space and used mathematics to prove that the whole universe is governed by the same laws of physics. Gravity effects a falling apple in the same way as it effects an orbiting planet.