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

Galileo is most famous for his astronomical discoveries, including the moons of Jupiter, the existence of sunspots and the phases of Venus. These discoveries were a strong challenge to geocentrism, and his writings and debates helped popularize the heliocentric model.

Image credit: public domain work by Giuseppe Bertini (1858), of Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope. Image credit: public domain work by Giuseppe Bertini (1858), of Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope. Galileo’s place in history is legendary: a titan among the earliest of the modern scientists. The first to use the telescope for astronomy, Galileo observed: the four large satellites of Jupiter, the first direct, observational “proof” of a set of celestial objects orbiting a world other than Earth, the “ears” of Saturn, that would later be discovered to be rings, the first discovery that worlds beyond Earth could have structures around them that Earth didn’t have, spots on the Sun, now known to be low-temperature, temporary areas (sunspots) that moved as the Sun rotated, and phases to the planet Venus, showing how it moved from crescent to half to gibbous to full and then back again, as it moved closer and farther from our perspective, appearing its smallest in the full phase and its largest as a narrow crescent. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Fernando de Gorocica, under a c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0 license, of Galileo's original (1610) sketches of the phases of Venus. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Fernando de Gorocica, under a c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0 license, of Galileo’s original (1610) sketches of the phases of Venus.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Fernando de Gorocica, under a c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0 license, of Galileo’s original (1610) sketches of the phases of Venus.

Yet, in a recent article for Aeon magazine, Thony Christie argues that Galileo’s contributions to astronomy were minimal compared to his contemporaries, and that he was not the transformative scientist he’s billed to be. While certainly Kepler and others made greater contributions to astronomy at the time, Galileo’s contributions to physics were unparalleled, as there was no greater giant whose shoulders Newton stood upon when he wrote his genre-defining works.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons user Mets501, under a c.c.a.-s.a.-2.5 license.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons user Mets501, under a c.c.a.-s.a.-2.5 license.

Go get the whole story on Galileo’s incomparable contributions to physics over on Forbes!

Comments

  1. #1 Ragtag Media
    United States
    April 7, 2016

    “Galileo’s reputation is more hyperbole than truth”
    Hmm, I suppose you would say the same for Jesus, a?
    Heck, let’s just hold modern day FAUX champions of great thinking on social justice like Hillary as our “modern times” Greats only so those 400 years into the future will see her as we now see Galileo’s moment as a simple “hyperbole “..

  2. #2 Omega Centauri
    April 7, 2016

    What Newton had also was world class mathematical chops. So Galileo developed many of the ideas, but it took a first class mathematical theorist to fully develop the ideas. Kind of like Faraday and Maxwell.

  3. #3 Denier
    United States
    April 8, 2016

    I did not know Galileo’s astronomy work was not entirely original. I will NOT be retelling that story. Regardless of any other work he did, receiving credit for the work of another is a touchy topic around my household. A good way to drop the temperature of any room by 10 degrees is to mention Watson and Crick’s Nobel Prize around my scientist wife.

  4. #4 Wow
    April 8, 2016

    Ever tried to get her to accept that CO2 has no effect on the global temperature?

    If she was daft enough to agree, is that fear or merely lack of knowledge in science?

    Nassif Nale claims to be a scientist, so it’s not like the assertion is sufficient unto itself, is it.

  5. #5 Denier
    United States
    April 8, 2016

    @Wow #4
    We don’t need another global warming thread. There are plenty of others on that topic.

  6. #6 Ragtag Media
    United States
    April 8, 2016

    @Denier#5 Have pity on faux addicts for they know not what they think..

  7. #7 Chris Mannering
    April 12, 2016

    Presumably you are sourcing the work of eminent historians of science…any chance of some names?

  8. #8 Wow
    April 14, 2016

    “We don’t need another global warming thread.”

    We also didn’t need to know you believe you to be married to a scientist. Didn’t stop you turning it into one, though, did it.

    And avoid answering.

  9. #9 Chris Mannering
    April 14, 2016

    Hi Ethan – thony cristie dedicated a post to yours here. He does knock it down but not harshly….the guys a top historian of that time so you know, what he knows very few people do, so there’s no shame or anything. You’d be helping science a great deal if you were willing to do a post acknowledging the actual position on Galileo and…reflecting on the implications of the almost ubiquitous historical misconceptions – including the entirety of the science community – at a time when progress has stalled and that same science community has turned to history for insights. A version of history that didn’t happen.

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