During an important time in European history, Galileo played a key role in the scientific revolution. He challenged widely accepted ideas and gave a new face to philosophy, astronomy and physics. While he was alive, though, he was much more than just a philosopher. Galileo Galilei had passions and values, which were portrayed throughout his life and accurately written down in Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter. He applied these values in his career as a mathematician and a teacher of physics, in his passion of astronomy and philosophy, in his loyalty to his church and country, and most of all to his daughter, whom he conversed with in the many letters of Galileo's Daughter. Unlike most of the history that is read in books, Galileo's story is of a real man with real values and faced with very controversial decisions.
Some of these controversies involve the clash of his passion of philosophy with that of the most widely accepted Aristotelian teachings. An example of this is when Galileo looked into his telescope and saw the moon, with its large mountains and deep valleys (31). This discovery proves contrary to what was taught by Aristotle, that the moon was shaped as a perfect sphere. In addition to this, determining how objects accelerate during free fall consumed him for some time. He was known to test his theory by carrying cannonballs up Pisa?s eight story spiral staircase to see if an object?s weight and acceleration during free fall were not related as he had thought (19). This challenged another one of Aristotle?s teachings, which was that an object?s acceleration was directly proportional to its weight.
His most significant controversies involved his passion of science and his loyalty to the Catholic Church. Religion was considered the governor of ideas at the time, and had the power to exile or execute anyone that the clergy felt was threatening that power. The Church was most threatened by Galileo and his implications that the moon had mountains and craters and his discoveries of sunspots. If these were true, it would mean that the heavens were not perfect, and that the Catholic Church was incorrect. Having to exert power to maintain authority, Galileo was imprisoned for defending these scientific discoveries and his belief in heliocentrism (the belief that the planets move around the sun).
Of course, Galileo was still loyal to his country and to the powerful Catholic Church, and recanted his ideas after being imprisoned. His sentence was later changed to house arrest, and he continued to communicate his ideas and scientific findings. One might think that it was out of cowardice that Galileo recanted his theories, but he probably felt that he was forced to. He was loyal to both as a passionate scientist and a faithful religious man, and he did not want to die or be exiled for theories that the world was not yet ready for. Doing so would mean abandoning his family and his career. Despite his bold stand in the name of science...