jump to navigation

Primer: Siderius Nuncius February 4, 2009

Posted by Will Thomas in EWP Primer.
Tags: , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Up until 1610, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) had made his living as a university mathematician, first at Pisa then at Padua near Venice.  At that time, mathematics was a relatively low university subject, primarily studied as a path toward an education in medicine, law, or theology and philosophy (Scholastic philosophy).  Subjects within the rubric of mathematics included the sciences of mechanics, optics, and astronomy.  The development of geometric and mathematical theories within these sciences constituted logical arguments, but were considered descriptive of the behaviors—rather than explanatory of the natures—of things.  Astronomy, for example, largely involved  the deployment of geometrical methods of predicting future positions of the sun, moon, and planets, leaving their physical qualities, habits of motion, and arrangement to the philosophers.

Galileo’s work in mathematics and mechanics was wide-ranging and ambitious, challenging philosophical assumptions such as that heavier objects fall more quickly, and making use of experimental trials.  He also became aware of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe (1543) while a mathematician.  Still, as a university mathematician, however much he felt his work bore upon philosophical forms of knowledge, he was not in a (more…)