Right to the Source: Exploring Science and History with the Library of Congress

By Potter, Lee Ann | The Science Teacher, October 2015 | Go to article overview

Right to the Source: Exploring Science and History with the Library of Congress


Potter, Lee Ann, The Science Teacher


Galileo's Starry Messenger

In March 1610, working with the Venetian printer Thomas Baglionum, Galileo Galilei published a small book in Latin entitled Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger). The book, consisting of printed descriptions and explanations with more than 70 engraved drawings and diagrams, was the first published scientific work based on observations made through a telescope.

At 46, Galileo--astronomer, physicist, philosopher, and mathematician--was teaching at the University of Padua in northern Italy. He was excited about Sidereus Nuncius, stating in his introduction: "In this short treatise I propose great things for inspection and contemplation by every explorer of Nature. Great, I say, because of the excellence of the things themselves, and because of their novelty, unheard through the ages, and finally because of the organ through the benefit of which they make themselves manifest to our sensory perception."

Galileo's book was based on his observations of the night sky made through a 20-enlargement refracting telescope that he had built. His telescope revealed hundreds of stars invisible to the naked eye. The surface of the moon, he found, was far from smooth, as previously assumed. He discovered the four moons of Jupiter, naming them the Medicean stars, after his former student, Cosimo de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (they are now known as the Galilean moons). …

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