Galileo: Religion and History

Galileo (1564 – 1642), an Italian, provided most beautiful evidence; to justify those ancient authorities should no longer be accepted without criticisms. He invented a telescope and used it to view the heavens and thus confirmed the Copernican theory that the sun was at the centre of the universe. Galileo also got into trouble with the church authorities for his audacity to be on the side of Copernicus.

Credit is usually given to Galileo for discovering and establishing the true method of physical sciences. This is because he combined experimental and inductive methods with mathematical deductions to obtain his results.

He was the first to apply mathematics as an empirical instrument in searching for the laws of heavenly motions. He was an advocate of the heliocentric theory. His greatest achievement as an astronomer was the discovery of the three laws of planetary motion. The laws are as follows:

  • All planets travel about the sun in an elliptical (oval) path,
  • A planet moves faster in its orbit as it nears the sun,
  • There is a relation between its distance from the sun and the time it takes to make an orbit (that is one movement round the sun).

What Galileo and Kepler could not provide, although they tried quite hard, were answers to these questions:

  • If the earth spins on its axis round the sun, why all the objects do not move. It?
  • How can the Earth spin around the Sun? - It was the major question as it was not understood what power makes it move.

The year 1660 seems to be the most important time in early development of modern science. It was in that year that Isaac Newton (1642–1727 AD) achieved one of the greatest successes of all times. In other words, through his work, he confirmed the results of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo. Thus all the results (of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton) formed the first great synthesis of physical knowledge, which is the primary aim of science. This means that science aims to be able to combine many seemingly unrelated facts, so as to be able to explain, predict and control nature.

Newton proposed a principle of gravitational attraction, and used it to answer the questions posed by the works of Galileo and Kepler.