At a young age, while watching a lamp swinging in the Pisa Cathedral, Galileo discovered that each full swing of a pendulum takes exactly the same amount of time regardless of whether the arc of the swing is wide or narrow. He used his own pulse to measure the time of each of the lamp’s swings. Many years later after studying medicine at the University of Pisa he used this knowledge to create the Harmonic Oscillator, a machine that accurately measures the human heart rate.
Galileo (1564-1642) challenged some of the fundamental knowledge of his time, providing proof that certain long held beliefs were incorrect, and paving the way for a better scientific future.
In his time it was accepted that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and the planets, including the sun, rotated around it. Thanks to Galileo’s tenacious observation of the natural world with his new and ultra powered telescope, coupled with his meticulous note taking, he was able to plot the movements of the planets around the sun.
Never happy to take someone else’s word, Galileo wanted to test everything for himself before forming his beliefs. This led him to his most famous experiment. Legend has it, he simultaneously dropped a heavy ball and a light ball from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to test which would fall the fastest.
Counter to the ‘understood knowledge’ of the day, Galileo was able to prove that the balls would reach the ground at the same speed, despite their different weights.
In anticipation of the world premiere of the Galileo: Scientist, Astronomer, 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.