Historical Astronomers in Context

Galileo Galilei

15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642

Galileo Galilei was extremely important to astronomy. He made some adaptations to telescopes and then used them for studying the stars. Thus, he was able to much more closely and precisely objects in the sky. He observed sun spots on the sun, proving it wasn’t perfect and thus that the objects in the heavens were not all perfect. He also overturned Aristotelian physics by showing that objects in motion stay in motion thus birds and clouds won’t fly off the Earth if it was moving. Finally, he saw the phases of Venus that would only make sense if the Earth was orbiting in the sun.

Events During Galileo’s Lifetime:

The Spanish Armada occurred during Galileo’s lifetime. The Spanish fleet of ships were defeated by the British, beginning of the end of Spanish power in the world. 

The 30 Years War also started during his lifetime. It was a basically a war between Catholics and Protestants that occurred in four stages: Bohemian, Danish, Swedish, and French.

People During Galileo’s Lifetime:

Charles I of England. He ruled without parliament until 1642 when he was beheaded during the English civil war. His beheading was after Galileo died, but Charles I reigned while Galileo was alive. 


It was very interesting to figure out what was going on in the world when these astronomers were doing their work. It is easy to think of these people as isolated and not really a part of any time period, so it was cool to see that there were wars and things of great historical significance happening while these astronomers were alive. It makes them seem more like people rather than just the work they did.


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