The Works of Galileo

Galileo's Later Years

A Few Misconceptions

Galileo did not prove his law of falling bodies by dropping balls off the leaning tower of Pisa (Figure 1) . Neither he nor any of his contemporaries ever claimed that he did so. Moreover, Galileo knew about air resistance, and that the heavier ball would indeed land before the lighter one, as Aristotle said.

This is the interior of the cathedral of Pisa: (Figure 2) . Note the Possenti chandelier, (Figure 3) . It used to be said that when a lamplighter would pull the chandelier to one side, its oscillations prompted Galileo to discover the isochronism of the pendulum. However, this lamp was not hung in the cathedral until 1587, and Galileo did his first work on the pendulum six years earlier in 1581.

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Tower of Pisa.

Image credit: Duane H. D. Roller slide archive
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Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Cathedral of Pisa.

Image credit: Duane H. D. Roller slide archive
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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Cathedral of Pisa, chandelier.

Image credit: Duane H. D. Roller slide archive
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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder, with the assistance of , Marilyn B. Ogilvie, Duane H. D. Roller.

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