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Galileo Galilei's Free Fall from the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Galileo, pronounced gal uh LAY oh (1564-1642), an Italian astronomer and physicist, has been called the founder of modern experimental science. Galileo made the first effective use of the refracting telescope to discover important new facts about astronomy. He also discovered the law of falling bodies as well as the law of the pendulum. Galileo designed a variety of scientific instruments. He also developed and improved the refracting telescope, though he did not invent it.

Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa (yep, the site of the famous leaning tower) on Feb. 15, 1564. In the early 1570’s, his family moved to Florence, and Galileo began his formal education at a school in a nearby monastery. Galileo’s father, determined that his son should be a doctor, sent him to the University of Pisa in 1581. Galileo studied medicine and the philosophy of Aristotle for the next four years.

Early scientific interests. Galileo’s years as a student at Pisa marked a turning point for him. Never really interested in medicine, he discovered he had a talent for mathematics. In 1585, he persuaded his father to let him leave the university. Back in Florence with his family, Galileo spent the next four years as a teacher in mathematics. During this time, he began to question Aristotelian philosophy and scientific thought. At the same time, he gained his first public notice with his new hydrostatic balance, an instrument used to find the specific gravity of objects by weighing them in water.

Before Galileo, it was thought that a heavy object would fall faster than a light one. According to legend, he went to the top of the famous leaning tower of Pisa and dropped two items of different weights. They hit the ground together, proving that gravity pulls all objects to Earth at the same rate of speed.

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