Prof. Joseph W. Dauben


The music you will hear if you click on this link is typical music of the Renaissance, music that would have been familiar to the famous Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, or to his father, who was himself a musician.

The significance of this music for Galileo's important studies of motion, his celebrated connection with the leaning tower of Pisa, and especially his experiments with inclined planes and his analysis of accelerated motion associated with the leaning tower of Pisa, will become clear a bit later in this program, devoted to the genius of Galileo and the relation between his role in the Scientific Revolution and the equally remarkable achievements of Renaissance artists reflected, in part, in the discovery and application of mathematical perpective. But first, what of Galileo and the Scientific Revolution?

Among the great figures of the Western scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries -- Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Leibniz -- all had at least one thing in common -- they were all mathematicians. And yet, of these figures two stand out as being conspiculously different, for only Galileo and Newton were experimenters, and of these two, it was Galileo, at the beginning of the Scientific Revolution early in the 17th century, who demonstrated the extraordinary effectiveness of experimental observation of nature, coupled with the analytical power of mathematics.

It is also interesting to note that while the revolution in mathematical astronomy -- which is a technical, theoretical science -- had its origins in Northern Europe, in Poland with Copernicus and Prague with Kepler, the experimental side of the Scientific Revolution had its origins in Italy. This is equally true for the life sciences, where the great advances of anatomy and physiology are associated with the likes of Andreaus Vesalius, Fabricius of Acquapendente, Realus Columbus -- and even William Harvey -- all of whom worked in Italy, and even more specifically, at Padua in the 16th and 17th centuries.

One question that immediately arises about the origins of modern science is the role that mathematics played, specifically in the hands of Galileo, along with another question that this program will also examine: why was it in ITALY that experimental science emerged for the first time in both the physical and the natural sciences?

To answer these questions, we will also have to consider the general context in which Italian Renaissance science arose, and how the mathematics of Galileo's "new science" as he called it, was related to the great works of Renaissance Italian painters and architects.

Moreover, by considering the interconnections between art and science in the Renaissance, it is possible to trace the origins of Galileo's own peculiarly Renaissance approach to nature. As we shall see, the values and attitudes be held were those shared by Italian humanists generally.

But first, before it is possible to make sense of these connections, it is necessary to say something, if only briefly, about Galileo himself.

Go on to the next section, Galileo, Part I: The Early Years

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