Little Bits of History

In the House

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 22, 2014
Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei

June 22, 1633: Galileo Galilei is handed his sentence from the Inquisition. The Galileo affair was a sequence of events beginning in 1610 when Galileo and the Catholic Church were in disagreement. Galileo supported Copernican astronomy and heliocentrism. He also supported secular philosophers while disagreeing with Aristotelianism. In 1610 Galileo published Starry Messenger in which he described what he had seen through his telescope. He had witnessed the phases of Venus and some of the moons of Jupiter. With these observations in hand, he promoted the Copernican theory of a heliocentric system which had been put forth in 1543. This displeased the Church and in 1616 the Inquisition proclaimed heliocentrism heretical.

Galileo proposed a theory of tides in that same year which were evidence of the motion of the Earth. He went on to propose a theory on comets in 1619. In 1632, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was published and implicitly defended the theory stating the Sun was the center around which the Earth turned. The book, published in Italian, was a best seller and was dedicated to Galileo’s patron, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Inquisition was faced with the growing popularity of a system of thought they had declared heretical and Galileo came under investigation.

The offending book was originally called Dialogue on the Tides, but the Inquisition refused approval for this since tides were explained by the Earth’s movement and they insisted the Earth was immovable and the center of the universe. The title was changed. The book is presented as a series of discussions taking place over four days. The participants are two philosophers and a layman. One philosopher agrees with Copernicus, one with Ptolemy and Aristotle, and the layman is at first neutral. The discussions range over most of the science of the day and present rebuttals to traditional philosophers as well as observations which are inconsistent with the Ptolemaic model. Arguments for an elegant unified theory of the Heavens which proved the Earth was stationary were simply incorrect.

Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy” since he refused to budge on his theory stating the Sun was stationary and Earth traveled around it. He was sentenced to formal imprisonment and was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. His Dialogue was banned and not announced, but enforced, was forbidding all future printing of any of his works including those he might write in the future. Although unable to publish, he continued to study science until his death on January 8 1642 at the age of 77. The ban on printing Galileo’s books was lifted in 1718. Several Popes since that time have praised his scientific work. Both Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein have called him the father of modern science.

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

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.

It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved. – all from Galileo Galilei

Also on this day: Deke – In 1844, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity is founded.
No Fun – In 1918, the worst circus train wreck took place.
Burn, Baby, Burn – In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire.
Sweden – In 1906, Sweden adopted a new/old national flag.

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I See

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2011

Modern radio telescope

August 25, 1609: Galileo Galilei demonstrates his first telescope to Venetian lawmakers. This was not Galileo’s only technological advance. He also created and then improved a geometric and military compass, especially valuable for aiming cannons as well as for surveyors. It was also useful in the construction of polygons. Galileo built a thermometer that used the expansion and contraction of air in a bulb moving through a tube of water.

He was working on a way to see the stars and distant planets more clearly, as were many others. He and Thomas Harriot, an Englishman, were the first to use a refracting telescope to peer into the night skies. The term “telescope” was coined by a Greek mathematician, Giovanni Demisiani in 1611. The term means to see far. Galileo was also concerned with seeing small and by 1624  he had perfected a compound microscope. He gifted this invention to the Duke of Bavaria and a second was sent to Prince Cesi. Giovanni Faber gave the name “microscope” to the invention.

The first refracting telescope came out of the Netherlands a year earlier and the inventor is not known. Credit sometimes goes to Hans Lippershey, Zacharias Hanssen, and Jacob Metius. The instrument was perfected many times and by 1668 Isaac Newton added his improvements, creating a telescope which bears his name. In 1733, an achromatic lens helped to correct color distortions. These, however, tarnished rapidly. A silver coating was added in the 19th century, alleviating that problem. Aluminized mirrors came in the 20th century. In the 1900s, telescopes working in a much wider wavelength range gave rise to radio and gamma-ray telescopes as well.

Today’s telescopes come in a variety of types. There are still optical telescopes, but added to them are many more: radio, x-ray, gamma-ray, high energy particle, gravitational wave, and neutrino detector telescopes are all in use. There are infrared, visible light, ultraviolet and low energy scopes, too. Each of these gives an entirely different look to what is in the night sky. Today, the largest optical telescope is the Gran Telescopio Canarias built by Spain, Mexico, and the US. It has an aperture of 410 inches and it is located in the Canary Islands. There are also many telescopes out in space, search outward and sending information back to Earth.

“For my confirmation, I didn’t get a watch and my first pair of long pants, like most Lutheran boys. I got a telescope. My mother thought it would make the best gift.” – Wernher von Braun

“I was, I remember, I still remember when the first time I pointed the telescope at the sky and I saw Saturn with the rings. It was a beautiful image.” – Umberto Guidoni

“The development of the telescope, together with increased knowledge of things, brought men to see that the earth is not what man had once thought it to be.” – Joseph Franklin Rutherford

“Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope.” – Josh Billings

Also on this day:
Swimming the English Channel – In 1875 Matthew Webb becomes the first to swim the English Channel.
Men in the Moon – In 1835, the Great Moon Hoax articles first began to see print.

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The Center of the Universe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 13, 2010

Portrait of Galileo Galilei

February 13, 1633: The Inquisition calls Galileo Galilei to Rome. He faces charges of heresy. Galileo arrived in Rome on this date, however, the long journey started on January 7-11, 1610 when Galileo first spotted four moons orbiting Jupiter. [See January 7] Galileo was not only an astronomer, but also a mathematician and philosopher. He played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. He improved the telescope and his observations were supportive of the Copernican theory. The Scientific Revolution is the basis for our modern scientific framework.

As he watched the moons circling the planet, his belief in Aristotelian geocentricity was called into question. A geocentric system would be one revolving around the home planet. Galileo continued to study the night sky. As he observed the phases of Venus, his belief in a heliocentric system gelled. A heliocentric system is one that revolves around a central sun.

By 1616, the Catholic Church and Inquisition became interested in this assertion. Cardinal Bellarmine ordered Galileo to “hold or defend” his theory. In 1623, Urban VIII was elected to the papal throne. This Pope was a friend of Galileo’s and he, along with the Inquisition, allowed Galileo to publish Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book was supposed to show the pros and cons of the issue, but served as a treatise for support of a heliocentric system.

Galileo was summoned to Rome and was eventually made to 1) recant, 2) be imprisoned [later commuted to house arrest], and 3) have the book banned. On October 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II admitted the Church’s big “whoops.”

“The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart.” – Walter Lippmann

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” – John Dewey

“In all science, error precedes the truth, and it is better it should go first than last.” – Hugh Walpole

“Is it so bad to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Also on this day, in 2000 the last original Peanuts cartoon strip was run.