Galileo: A Very Short Introduction

By Stillman Drake | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
Galileo's early years

Galileo Galilei was born at Pisa on 15 February 1564. His father, Vincenzio Galilei, was a musician whose originality and polemic talents fomented a revolution uniting practice and theory in music much as Galileo was to unite them in science. Galileo's mother, Giulia Ammannati, is known but slightly from a few letters that give us an unflattering picture of her.

Galileo was the oldest of seven children. The family remained at Pisa until he was about ten years old and then moved to Florence. After some schooling there he was sent to the ancient Camaldolese monastery at Vallombroso, where he was so attracted by the quiet and studious life that he entered the order as a novice. His father, however, wished him to study medicine and took him back to Florence, where Galileo continued his studies with the Camaldolese monks, though no longer as a prospective member of the order, until his matriculation at the University of Pisa in 1581.

About the same time there was created at Florence an informal academy called the Camerata, active in the literary, artistic, and especially the musical life of the city, which attracted Galileo's father. After having studied music theory at Venice under Gioseffo Zarlino some years earlier, Vincenzio became interested in the revival of classical Greek forms of music as an antidote to the over-ornate vocal polyphony of his time, and in problems of instrumental music as related

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