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the days when men could adopt as a profession the “research of endowment.” Before taking leave of Kepler, who was by no means a man of one idea, it ought to be here recorded that he was the first to suggest that a telescope made with both lenses convex (not a Galilean telescope) can have cross wires in the focus, for use as a pointer to fix accurately the positions of stars. An Englishman, Gascoigne, was the first to use this in practice. From the all too brief epitome here given of Kepler's greatest book, it must be obvious that he had at that time some inkling of the meaning of his laws — universal gravitation. From that moment the idea of universal gravitation was in the air, and hints and guesses were thrown out by many; and in time the law of gravitation would doubtless have been discovered, though probably not by the work of one man, even if Newton had not lived. But, if Kepler had not lived, who else could have discovered his laws?
6. GALILEO AND THE TELEscoPE – NoTIONS OF GRAVITY BY HoRRocKs, Etc.
It is now necessary to leave the subject of dynamical astronomy for a short time in order to give some account of work in a different direction originated by a contemporary of Kepler's, his senior in fact by seven years. Galileo Galilei was born at Pisa in 1564. The most scientific part of his work dealt with terrestrial dynamics; but one of those fortunate chances which happen only to really great men put him in the way of originating a new branch of astronomy. The laws of motion had not been correctly defined. The only man of Galileo's time who seems to have worked successfully in the same direction as himself was that Admirable Crichton of the Italians, Leonardo da Vinci. Galileo cleared the ground. It had always been noticed that things tend to come to rest: a ball rolled on the ground, a boat moved on the water, a shot fired in the air. Galileo realised that in all of these cases a resisting force acts to stop the motion, and he was the first to arrive at the not very obvious law that the motion of a body will never stop, nor vary its speed, nor change its direction, except by the action of some force. It is not very obvious that a light body and a heavy one fall at the same speed (except for the resistance of the air). Galileo proved this on paper, but to convince the world he had to experiment from the leaning tower of Pisa. At an early age he discovered the principle of isochronism of the pendulum, which, in the hands of Huyghens in the middle of the seventeenth century, led to the invention of the pendulum clock, perhaps the most valuable astronomical instrument ever produced.
These and other discoveries in dynamics may seem very obvious now; but it is often the most every-day matters which have been found to elude the inquiries of ordinary minds, and it required a high order of intellect to unravel the truth and discard the stupid maxims scattered through the works of Aristotle and accepted on his authority. A blind worship of scientific authorities has often delayed the progress of human knowledge, just as too much “instruction ” of a youth often ruins his “education.” Grant, in his history of Physical Astronomy, has well said that “the sagacity and skill which Galileo displayed in resolving the phenomena of motion into their constituent elements, and hence deriving the original principles involved in them, will ever assure to him a distinguished place among those who have extended the domains of science.”
But it was work of a different kind that established Galileo's popular reputation. In 1609 Galileo heard that a Dutch spectacle-maker had combined a pair of lenses so as to magnify distant objects. Working on this hint, he solved the same problem, first on paper and then in practice. So he came to make one of the first telescopes ever used in astronomy. No sooner had he turned it on the heavenly bodies than he was rewarded by such a shower of startling discoveries as forthwith made his name
the best known in Europe. He found curious irregular black spots on the sun, revolving round it in twenty-seven days; hills and valleys on the moon; the planets showing discs of sensible size, not points like the fixed stars; Venus showing phases according to her position in relation to the sun; Jupiter accompanied by four moons; Saturn with appendages that he could not explain, but unlike the other planets; the Milky Way composed of a multitude of separate stars. His fame flew over Europe like magic, and his discoveries were much discussed — and there were many who refused to believe. Cosmo de Medici induced him to migrate to Florence to carry on his observations. He was received by Paul V., the Pope, at Rome, to whom he explained his discoveries. He thought that these discoveries proved the truth of the Copernican theory of the Earth's motion; and he urged this view on friends and foes alike. Although in frequent correspondence with Kepler, he never alluded to the New Astronomy, and wrote to him extolling the virtue of epicycles. He loved to argue, never shirked an encounter with any number of disputants, and laughed as he broke down their arguments. Through some strange course of events, not easy to follow, the Copernican theory, whose birth was welcomed by the Church, had now been taken up by certain anti-clerical agitators, and was opposed by the cardinals as well as by the dignitaries of the Reformed Church. Galileo — a good Catholic — got mixed up in these discussions, although on excellent terms with the Pope and his entourage. At last it came about that Galileo was summoned to appear at Rome, where he was charged with holding and teaching heretical opinions about the movement of the earth; and he then solemnly abjured these opinions. There has been much exaggeration and misstatement about his trial and punishment, and for a long time there was a great deal of bitterness shown on both sides. But the general verdict of the present day seems to be that, although Galileo himself was treated with consideration, the hostility of the Church to the views of Copernicus placed it in opposition also to the true Keplerian system, and this led to unprofitable controversies. From the time of Galileo onwards, for some time, opponents of religion included the theory of the Earth's motion in their disputations, not so much for the love, or knowledge, of astronomy, as for the pleasure of putting the Church in the wrong. This created a great deal of bitterness and intolerance on both sides. Among the sufferers was Giordano Bruno, a learned speculative philosopher, who was condemned to be burnt at the stake.