|5 Galileo Sees the Moons of Jupiter and The Earth Moves 1610
THE TENSION between religion and science can be symbolized by one man: Galileo Galilei. He did not originate the theory that the earth revolved around the sun. Nor did he invent the telescope. But Galileo's skill as a mechanic enabled him to improve the telescope so that he saw the moons of Jupiter in 1610. He used the sightings to support the idea that Jupiter and Earth revolve around the sun. And at least when he published his arguments, he possessed a spine stiff enough to stand up to the Catholic Church, which saw the earth as the center of the universe.
The textbook version of Galileo's life calls him the father of modern mechanics because of his work on the laws of motion. Born in Pisa in 1564, he became a math professor and developed the law of falling bodies--that falling objects accelerate at the same rate regardless of their mass.
The breathing, pulsing Galileo was a complicated character whose sense of self-importance knew few bounds. He abandoned his mistress and stashed his two daughters in convents. He used political connections to impede competing inventors. His arrogance ultimately helped cause the quake within the Church that a more diplomatic scientist might have avoided.
With its armies facing Protestant forces to the north, the Catholic Church was in no mood to accept any questioning of its authority. Pope Urban VIII, convinced that Galileo had mocked him, felt compelled to call the astronomer before the Inquisition. Under threat of torture, at the age of 69, Galileo recanted and was placed under house arrest until his death nine years later. To this day, the world remembers him for an exchange that may in fact be fiction. After recant- ing, Galileo is said to have muttered, "And yet it [the earth] does move." Whether true or not, it took more than 300 years for the Church, under Pope John Paul II, to do its own recanting.
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