Galileo was a prominent Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. He was born in Pisa in 1564, but his family moved to Florence when he was eight. Educated at the University of Pisa as a physician, he later became chair of the mathematics department at Pisa, a professor at the University of Padua, and for a short period of time in his early career was an instructor at the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence.
Galileo’s support of heliocentrism—in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary sun at the center of a solar system—landed him in trouble with the Catholic church and Pope Urban VIII. In 1615 and again in 1633 he was brought before the Roman Inquisition. The second inquiry found him guilty of “vehemently suspected of heresy,” and he was forced to recant his theories and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. He died at his villa in Arcetri, just outside of Florence, in 1642.
As a result of his many scientific improvements and discoveries during his lifetime, he is often referred to today as the “father of modern observational astronomy,” the “father of modern physics,” and the “father of science.”
Galileo is buried in his family’s tomb in the Church of Santa Croce, where his ancestors had also been buried 200 years earlier. Because of his sentence from the Roman Inquisition, Galileo had originally been buried in a small room next to the novices’ chapel. He was later moved to a monumental tomb in the main part of the church that had been built during the 18th century. When he was reburied, three fingers and a tooth were removed from his remains. The middle finger from his right hand is currently on exhibition at the Museo Galileo.