(February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642)
Skilled in mathematical physics, Galileo Galilei is widely regarded as the “father” of modern science. His insistence on facts (rather than myths) incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church. But he weathered the storm admirably; thus, ushering-in this contemporary age of scrutiny, research and candor. If all scientists are like Galileo, the truth and nothing but the truth, would be the lot of science. A young Isaac Newton adored him; and was greatly influenced by his excellent investigative methodologies. He would later describe him as the giant on whose shoulders he stood in order to see farther. Apart from defending science resolutely in the face of ruinous consequences, Galileo made other enduring contributions. His experiments on optics, astronomy and mechanics are well-documented. He conclusively proved the uniform acceleration of falling bodies. He is also credited with inventing thermoscope: the forerunner of thermometer. In 1625, Giovanni Faber coined the term “microscope”, while watching Galileo work with an assembled set of magnifiers. And in 1656, Christiaan Huygens developed the pendulum clock after studying his works. Even after three centuries, a grateful Albert Einstein praised him and Newton for indirectly introducing the concept of Relativity. Now, he is revered above all else for entrenching probity: through careful observations, meticulous experimentations and analyses, as the bedrock of science. A spacecraft, an asteroid and four Jupiter moons are named after Galileo. Among his notable students is Vincenzo Viviani: the scientist who influenced Isaac Barrow (Cambridge’s first Lucasian Professor of Mathematics) who later mentored Isaac Newton.