Galileo Galilei did not win any awards during his lifetime. He spent much of his career as a scientist being persecuted by the Catholic Church for beliefs the church hierarchy considered heretical.Continue Reading
Galileo was born in Pisa in 1564, and made his first important contribution to science while he was still a student at the University of Pisa. There, he discovered the law of the pendulum while watching a chandelier swing in the Cathedral of Pisa.
Galileo left the university for lack of money, but returned a few years later to become a professor. While there, he discovered the law of falling bodies. According to a story that may be or may not be true, Galileo dropped a 10-pound weight and a one-pound weight from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and noted that they both hit the ground at the same time. Before this, people believed that heavier objects fell faster than lighter ones.
Galileo's great discoveries in astronomy occurred after he became a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua. These discoveries, including the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus, led him to realize that the Earth was not the center of the cosmos and brought him trouble with the Church. He was called before the Inquisition and sentenced to house arrest. He died in 1642. In 1992, John Paul II acknowledged that the church was wrong to condemn Galileo.Learn more about Astronomy