If necessity is the mother of invention, then who was the mother of the inventors? Where did the great inventors come from? What did they invent? How were they educated? How did they die? Over the next few months, we will review their lives briefly as we explore the gifts these men and women gave to civilization.
Let us begin with the microscope and its history. Earlier this year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Eric Betzig, William Moener and Stefan Hell for the invention of the super resolved fluorescence microscope. This instrument is world’s apart from the simple instrument of magnification that the appeared in Holland in the late 1500s. Hans Lippershey and Zacharias Jansen, two men who made eyeglasses, first invented the optical microscope. Both went on to invent prototypes for the telescope. Yet, it is Galileo Galilei who is credited for the compound microscope, a refinement he introduced circa 1625. After that, there was no stopping the evolution of the microscope of its varied uses. In England, Robert Hooke was able to create the masterwork Micrographia through the use of the microscope. His contemporary, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek went on to discover red blood cells, spermatozoa and micro-organism thanks to this brilliant invention. All of these men advanced the cause of science and research for the generations to come.
Which of these men were the greatest inventor and scientist? Hands down it would be Galileo. Einstein called him the “father of modern science.” Stephen Hawking considers that Galileo bears more responsibility for the birth of modern science that any other man in history. So what did he invent? In addition to refinements to the microscope, the compass and the telescope, there was the Galilean thermometer. Galileo discovered the principle on which this instrument is based. As you know, the density of a liquid changes in proportion to its temperature. Galileo’s device is a simple closed cylinder, usually made of glass. It contains a clear liquid in which glass vessels of varying densities are suspended. These vessels rise and fall as the temperature change. Sounds simple enough, but only a genius could have created something so brilliant.
Galileo is most noted for the great controversy he created involving heliocentricity. The Catholic authorities of his day roundly rejected his theory that the earth moved around the sun. As the author of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo was subjected to the horrors of he Inquisition and was found guilty of “vehement suspicion of heresy” by church authorities. This judgment followed him to his grave. Dying at the age of 77 in 1642, Galileo was denied a proper memorial. Furthermore, his remains were kept separate from those of his ancestors for nearly one hundred years. By then, his theory had become widely accepted and his body was given a proper memorial. In 1737, his remains were move to the main body of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Tuscany.
It is interesting to note that Galileo was an accomplished musician. His father had been a famous master of the lute and those fortunate to hear him play regarded Galileo as a great performer, as well.
At Alliance Calibration we calibrate microscopes and other delicate instruments that have come down to us thanks to inventors such as Galileo. Call us today and let us work for you.