Galileo Adopts Copernicanism

Galileo had been at the University of Pisa for three years when, in

1591, his father died. As he was the eldest, the burden of supporting the family now fell to him. He would have to find a betterpaying job. He received strong support from the independently wealthy nobleman Guidobaldo del Monte (1545-1607) and, in

1592, received an appointment as professor of mathematics at the University of Padua, Italy, adequately boosting his income. His duties at Padua were to teach Euclidian geometry and the Ptolemaic Earth-centered system of astronomy. Astronomy was important for students, especially medical students, to be able to keep a calendar and to be able to use astrology in daily medical practices. The Ptolemaic system annoyed Galileo, as it had Copernicus. By this time, Galileo had studied and accepted Copernicus's theories of a Sun-centered model of the solar system, yet aside from a personal letter he sent in 1598 to a friend, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, declaring his support of Copernicanism, he kept his views to himself. To go against the accepted system of astronomy was to go against the doctrine of the Catholic Church. He did not want to be branded as a heretic. Then, too, there was the public in general. Although it was the Renaissance, during which freethinking and new ideas were gaining popularity, people as a whole remained overly superstitious and were not receptive to radical change.

Galileo was content at Padua and remained there for 17 very productive years, carrying out new studies and experiments in mechanics, a branch of physics. For example, in 1597, he developed a geometric compass, also called a sector, for use as a computing device, which was mass-marketed along with a manual on how to use it. Compasses are still used for geometrical drawing today. He also developed the thermoscope, a thermometer to measure air temperature. It was in 1599 in Padua that he met and fell in love with a woman named Maria Gamba, from Venice, who would soon become his mistress.

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