Tudor Minute February 15: Happy Birthday Galileo

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for February 15.

Today in 1564 Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa. He was the son of Vincenzo Galilei, a famous lutenist, composer, and music theorist, and his mother was Giulia – the two got married in 1562.

Galileo became an accomplished lutenist himself and would have learned early from his father a skepticism for established authority, the value of well-measured or quantified experimentation, an appreciation for a periodic or musical measure of time or rhythm, as well as the results expected from a combination of mathematics and experiment.

Although Galileo seriously considered the priesthood as a young man, at his father’s urging he instead enrolled at the University of Pisa for a medical degree. In 1581, when he was studying medicine, he noticed a swinging chandelier, which air currents shifted about to swing in larger and smaller arcs. To him, it seemed, by comparison with his heartbeat, that the chandelier took the same amount of time to swing back and forth, no matter how far it was swinging.

When he returned home, he set up two pendulums of equal length and swung one with a large sweep and the other with a small sweep and found that they kept time together. Later he would become embroiled in the controversy around heliocentrism, and would be forced to recant his belief in the earth circling around the sun. According to popular legend, after recanting his theory that the Earth moved around the Sun, Galileo allegedly muttered the rebellious phrase “And yet it moves“.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com where there is an episode on Elizabethan astronomy.