HW3: Historical Astronomers in Context

Question 2

I chose Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642).

Galileo Galilei’s contributions to Astronomy were primarily observational. From what we know about his very own scientific method, however, we understand how important those observations really were. It’d be very easy to simply dismiss someone who simply took existing technology and just pointed it up at the night sky. What’s more important is to realize that he was intellectually curious enough to do so, and then made detailed accounts and drawings that, paired with his skills in reasoning and logic, disproved his predecessors. Case in point, the moons of Jupiter and his understanding that they must be orbiting Jupiter. Not only were his processes revolutionary, but the accuracy with which he did them are hailed to be astounding by many.

Question 3a

Plenty of historical events took place throughout Galileo’s lifetime. For instance, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII implemented the Gregorian Calendar, the very one we use today! And in 1588 the Spanish Armada was defeated. Basically, it was a Spanish fleet that was intended to attack England but failed. Miserably. If anyone’s interested, there was a paper on what would have happened had the Armada actually landed.

Question 3b

William Shakespeare – (April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616). Our beloved western playwright, he brought timeless classics that still disrupt highschoolers’ attempts at procrastination, only to fail due to Sparknotes. If anyone’s interested in a good read though, MIT has a complete list of his works with links to the actual plays themselves. Plus, it’s free!

Question 4

For me, Galileo’s influence on the world of science is something I’ve been taught over and over ever since middle school. From little factoids to drilling in the scientific method, I always considered him less of a scientist and more of a lucky guy who happened to make good decisions and notice a few things. He reported scientific facts – he wasn’t a scientist. That changed over time, and gradually I began to see why he was so beloved.
As a neuroscience major, every class from Intro Neuro to upper and graduate level courses start out the first lecture with Golgi and Cajal who shared the Nobel prize. The former invented the stain, but the latter used it to produce beautiful drawings of neural structures (also, the neuron doctrine beat out reticular theory but hey who’s counting). It’s the same relationship as Galileo and the telescope. You could say the inventor of the device should get the credit, but you also have to consider the one who used it to its best potential and laid out a foundation for further scientific investigation.


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