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Galileo was born in Pisa, in the Tuscany region of Italy, in 1564. He was homeschooled through his early years and later attended the University of Pisa. Galileo soon became bored with his studies and eventually dropped out of the university. Nevertheless, he was offered a position as a mathematics professor there in 1589 after giving an impressive lecture.

 

While teaching at Pisa, Galileo conducted a legendary experiment in which he challenged Aristotle’s law that states that heavier objects fall at a faster rate than lighter objects. According to legend, Galileo went to the top of the Tower of Pisa and dropped various balls of different material, size, and weight from the top. When they all hit the ground at the same time, Galileo had proven Aristotle wrong.

 

Galileo next taught geometry, mechanics, and astronomy at the University of Padua. It was at Padua where he made many of his amazing discoveries. In 1596, Galileo invented a military compass that could be used to properly aim cannonballs. In 1609, he learned that a Dutch spectacle-maker had invented a device called a spyglass. The spyglass (later called a telescope) made distant objects appear much closer. Before the Dutch inventor could secure a patent, Galileo quickly constructed his own 3-power telescope, and then a 10-power telescope to present to the senate in Venice. Galileo then used his telescope to document the surface of the moon, which he described as bumpy, cratered, and uneven. Galileo next created a 30-power telescope and observed Jupiter and three of its moons that seemed to rotate around the giant planet. Based on these observations, Galileo wrote a short book called The Starry Messenger in which he upheld the theory that the Earth and planets rotated around the sun. The book caused quite a stir among powerful members of the Catholic Church, who believed the solar system rotated around the earth. Galileo was prohibited from teaching the theory.

 

Galileo soon began taking up other scientific interests. In one particular paper he published, Galileo explained theories on ocean tides by using three characters engaging in a “dialogue.” One character supported Galileo’s views, another character was open-minded, and the last was stubborn and foolish and represented Galileo’s enemies. He then wrote a similar book about the Earth rotating around the sun. Although the “dialogues” were very popular with the Italian public, the Pope believed that he was the model for the stubborn and foolish enemy of Galileo. The Pope ordered all of the “dialogues” banned and demanded that Galileo be tried for teaching the theory. Galileo was sentenced to house arrest and forced to confess that his views were flawed. He died in Florence in 1642.