Happy Birthday, Galileo!


If I drop a 5 kg weight and a 2 kg weight exactly at the same time, which will fall the fastest and hit the ground first?

Correct! Wrong!

Don’t worry if you got it wrong. So did Aristotle when he said heavier objects will fall faster than lighter objects. But in 1638, an Italian scientist proved that objects fall at the same speed whatever their weight (mass) might be, by dropping different sized balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

He was Galileo Galilei, scientist, astronomer, mathematician and a courageous man who shattered the way that many people thought about many things. He was born today, February 15th, but 484 years ago!

Galileo discovered a few things:
* Pendulum Law : One day, at the age of 20, Galileo was bored at the Cathedral of Pisa. There he noticed a chandelier swinging and noticed that each swing took the same time even from different angles. This led to the Pendulum law which is still used to regulate time in clocks.







* Gravity : Galileo’s experiments largely contributed to Newton’s Law of Gravity that objects reach the ground at the same time independent of their weight. This means that if you drop a tennis ball and a hammer from a height, they will both reach the earth at the same time due to the same force of gravity, even though the hammer is heavier than the tennis ball.




* Telescope :  In 1608, in a tiny shop in Holland, two boys while playing discovered that if they held two glass lenses in front of each other and looked through it, they could see the weather vane of the nearby church three times larger. The owner, Hans Lipperhey, used this discovery to make the “spyglass”. Galileo got very excited when he heard about this. He decided to grind and polish his own glass lenses and after many trials finally came up with a more powerful device. One night in 1609, he aimed his new telescope towards the heavens and what he saw would forever revolutionize the field of astronomy. Galileo discovered that :

  • the Moon was not smooth (as believed) and has craters
  • Jupiter has 4 moons
  • the Sun’s surface has dark spots called Sunspots
  • the Sun was the center of the Solar System and not the Earth, and that
  • the Milky Way is a cluster of stars and not clouds

His views and discoveries were so far out that he was imprisoned! 

The Church at that time thought that the Earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and stars revolved around it. Galileo’s finding that in fact the Sun is at the center and that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun was completely opposite to that.  He was therefore placed under house arrest till his death in 1642 at the age of 77.

How was Galileo finally recognized as a great scientist?

Galileo was an American unmanned spacecraft that studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies. Named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei; Photo Credit: Wikipedia
  • In 1992, (359 years later) the Vatican finally admitted that Galileo was right and cleared him of all charges.
  • In 1989 the first spacecraft to Jupiter was named in his honour.
  • In 1971, astronaut David Scott (aboard Apollo 15) conducted the famous Galileo experiment on the Moon by dropping a hammer and a feather simultaneously from the same height.





Shruti Divecha was a graphic and textile designer by profession till her curiosity filled daughter pulled out the writer inside her. She writes stories, GK nuggets and teaches recycled crafts to children.



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