Historical Astronomers in Context

Galileo Galilei was born in 1564 and died in 1642. His lifetime spanned an important period in human history as it covered both the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.

During his lifetime the British East India Company was chartered and rose to prominence, and the Indian massacre of 1622 took place in the “New World.” The British East India Company was chartered on December 31, 1600. It was the oldest and most powerful of the European trade organizations. At its peak it was aiding in British colonial rule in India and accounted for half of the world’s trade. In 1622 the native Powhatan indians killed 347 English settlers in what became known as the Jamestown massacre. The settlement in Jamestown, Virginia was one of the first colonial settlements and the massacre irreparably changed the relationship between the settlers and natives.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born in the same year as Galileo was, though he died much sooner. Shakespeare was a prominent poet, author, and playwright that made significant contributions to literature such as “Romeo and Juliet.” He is arguably the most famous playwright of all time, and he is still considered the English national poet. His works contributed to some of the great literary advancements taking place during the Renaissance.

I enjoyed learning about when Galileo was alive and some of his contemporaries. While the individuals were important, the great number of prominent figures made me realize that Galileo was alive during the scientific revolution and that he played a major role in advancing society asa whole forward with his assessments. He made a prominent public stand in defense of the heliocentric model that helped emphasize a greater shift away from religious approaches to science towards a more evidence based scientific approach. The world made big strides forward in science, and especially astronomy during this time, and it was great to read about how quickly everything was changing during the scientific revolution. Galileo was also alive at the end of the renaissance so there were great works of literature and philosophy being written and created during Galileo’s lifetime in addition to the great scientific strides being made.

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