Was Galileo Galilei the first real physicist?

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Was Galileo Galilei the first "real" physicist?

Before Galileo, I don't think there was physics in the way we think of it today. It seemed that physics was more of a philosophy to the Greeks and Romans, who just came up with theories and didn't try to prove them through experiment. In my opinion, the theories that turned out to be right were no more than lucky guesses (although admittedly some of the theories were "deduced" through logic and common sense).

The Question: Was Galileo Galilei the first "real" physicist? In other words, was he the first physicist to test his theories through experiment?
 

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  • #2
Chi Meson
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Galileo is generally credited with developing what is now known as "The Scientific Method." And as such he is given the accolade of being the first "scientist." Was he really though? Hard to say. Experiments were done before him, data was accumulated, ideas were tested, etc. With Galileo came more of a scientific attitude which said that mere inspriation and good ideas were not a valid basis for knowledge if those ideas could not be tested. The new aspect of science, beginning with Galileo, is the idea that no theory could ever be proven universally correct, and any theory that has no way of being proven incorrect is invalid.
 
  • #3
JasonRox
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What about Tycho Brahe or Johannes Keppler?

There are many candidates so it's hard to say. But like Chi Meson said, he brought a more scientific attitude to the table.
 
  • #4
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What about Tycho Brahe or Johannes Keppler?
Tycho was an observer and Johannes was a phenomenologist.
http://scienceblogs.com/interactions/2007/03/tycho_kepler_newton_a_story_in_1.php [Broken]
 
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  • #5
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Ill try and dig through my history notes from a while back, but I think your very close. It was someone before Newton, but not newton himself, but it was not the ancients. "Our" scientific method started around the 1300's.
 
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I think Descartes first formulated the scientific method. Others before him may have used the same approach or some variant of it, but they had not formalized the process so it was kind of serendipitous.
 
  • #7
Chi Meson
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Descartes, Keppler, and Galileo were the "Giants" invoked by Newton's famous "shoulder" statment. Descartes, I think, was the first to use what became the phrase "scientific method" but he came slighly after Galileo.

I think more than anything, the life of Galileo was concurrent with the beginning of modern science.
 
  • #8
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descartes was responsible for ridding science of a lot of the mysticism & religion of the day. or rather, he replaced the existing religion by another one (math). he even went so far as to say that science is really just a form of math & no experiments were necessary. actually i think galileo thought that also, but he would do an experiment just to convince someone who didn't believe him. up until galileo scientists tried to figure out why, for example, a ball dropped when it was let go & galileo was the first to forget about that and use equations to express what happens. i think that's what led to the discovery of gravity. someone correct me if i'm wrong, but i think (at least until einstein) the most we understood about the nature of gravity is [tex]F=G\frac{m_1m_2}{r^2}[/tex], and even today mathematical formulas still give us the best answers to questions about nature. & that's what galileo did; he decided to ignore why things happened, and instead to make up mathematical formulas to describe what happens. he was also the first to ignore things which might not have affected the motion of something, like friction or air resistance. of course if other things like that were significant more complicated methods were necessary.
 
  • #9
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I have another question about Galileo. If he developed the "scientific method," how did he use experiment to disprove Aristotle's ideas on natural and violent motion (i.e. unnatural motion requires a constant force)?
 
  • #10
Chi Meson
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That would be his experiments featuring balls rolling down--and back up--ramps. Essentially, since balls would always roll back up a ramp to essentially the same starting height, he concluded that the ball would continue to roll "forever" if it never was allowed to returen to the same starting height. He knew that forever was not really a possiblilty due to the dissipation caused by sound and friction, but his experiments led to the conclusion of what is now recognized as inertia. His experiments on inertia were many and varied; the balls on ramps was just the beginning.

The concept of energy was still two hundred years off.
 
  • #11
arildno
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  • #12
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arildno, you left out Archimedes.
 
  • #13
Office_Shredder
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You know who wasn't a scientist?

I can't remember his name, it was like Archimidus or something.... arimedes maybe. Anyway, that guy was full of crap
 
  • #14
arildno
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Anyway, that guy was full of crap
So are you, too. Every morning. I hope you use the toilet.
 
  • #15
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Are you referring to the tale about the king and the impure crown, and Archimedes sits in a bathtub and realizes the principle of displacement? I wouldn't really consider that "the scientific method," because the discovery was kind of an accident.

I realize that you could be referring to some other experiment Archimedes did which utilized the scientific method. If this is true, I'd be interested to know the details of the experiment.
 
  • #16
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People did not blindly believe in aristotle until the time of Galileo. By the 1200s Leonardo and others knew all about momentum, bernoulli's principle, and other empirical physics. The problem was they didn't have adequate mathematics, so the descriptions ended in much the same place as they began. Physics was dead in the water throughout the middle ages because everybody was so groggy about algebra.

Francis Bacon (a wind-bag philosopher) talked about changing this, Descartes and Galileo helped to change this, and Newton changed it.

I realize that you could be referring to some other experiment Archimedes did which utilized the scientific method. If this is true, I'd be interested to know the details of the experiment.
Archimedes was a great inventor and mathematician, but it seems that he was not interested in posing or testing grand scientific theories (but much of his work remains lost:frown: ).
 
  • #17
Pyrrhus
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People did not blindly believe in aristotle until the time of Galileo. By the 1200s Leonardo and others knew all about momentum, bernoulli's principle, and other empirical physics. The problem was they didn't have adequate mathematics, so the descriptions ended in much the same place as they began. Physics was dead in the water throughout the middle ages because everybody was so groggy about algebra.
True just look at China's ancient naval engineers, they knew enough about bernoulli principle, that they implemented it in their own ships.
 
  • #18
Chi Meson
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Archimedes, Archimedes, Rock me, Archimedes, Archimedes, Archimedes, Rock me, Archimedes, Archimedes, Archimedes, Rock me, Archimedes, Archimedes,
Never liked Falco.
 
  • #20
cronxeh
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I like these threads. I think the only criteria by which you can compare Galileo, Newton, and Einstein is by the amount of variables they had to deal with to reach their conclusions. If you compared number of variables that are known to each, considering they were excellent students (which is a limited by human ability and furthermore fine tuned by their individual abilities), and considering facts were known at the same and that most theories and assumptions were correct.. in my opinion Einstein's genius far outweighs all of the other.
 
  • #21
Chi Meson
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Back to a serious contribution:

It occurs to me, that the real breakthrough was in the society that surrounded Galileo et al. As noted in previous posts, many bits of the "Scientifc Method" had been used or proposed in the hudreds of years preceding G; one can also assume that the notion of inertia must have been stumbled across by many individuals who never had the "authority" to make anyone else listen to them.

Just imagine, a guy named Burdthnetl on a farm in central europe around AD 680: "But why should it need a force to keep going once it's already moving? Seems to me, it would need a force to stop it."

Everyone else:"Dude, shut the ---- up!"

In the middle of the second millenia, enough people were educated enough to give serious thought to the progress of knowledge, thereby continuing the progress. Up to then, each little breakthrough was met by insurmountable common ignorence. Many times the ignorence was enforced.
 
  • #22
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what about copernicus

he layed the foundation for what galileo would do
 
  • #23
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That reminds me, does anyone know if copernicus was the earliest discoverer of universal gravitation?
 

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