Galileo Galilei, Italian astronomer
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Italian astronomer and physicist. Galileo is famed for his 1610 use of his telescope to discover the four largest moons of Jupiter. He also observed mountains on the Moon. In physics, he found that all pendulums swing with the same time period, and that heavy and light objects fall at the same rate. He supported the Copernican theory that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was at the centre of the solar system. This belief was declared heretical in 1633 by the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church. He was held under house arrest for the rest of his life. Engraving from Vies des Savants Illustres (1876).
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Bernard Palissy, French geologist
Bernard Palissy (1509-1589), French potter, geologist and naturalist, stoking his furnace with wooden furniture. Originally a glass-painter by trade, Palissy spent 16 years on experiments to produce enamels. His efforts reduced him and his family to poverty; he is said to have burned his furniture and even the floor boards of his house to feed the fires of his furnaces, and it is said that his wife and family reproached him bitterly. From 1557 his ceramics, decorated in coloured relief, made him famous. From 1575 to 1584 he lectured on natural history, physics and agriculture. As a Huguenot Protestant, he was arrested by France's Catholic regime in 1588 for his religious beliefs, and died in prison the following year. Engraving from the 1875 edition of Vies des Savants Illustres.
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Geber, Islamic alchemist
Geber (c.722-c.815), Islamic Spanish alchemist, teaching chemistry. Geber is a Latinised form. His full Arabic name is Jabir ibn Hayyan. Geber is sometimes known as the Father of Chemistry, as he was instrumental in turning it from a mystical practice (alchemy) into a science. He insisted on mastery of practical chemistry, and invented much of the equipment still used in laboratories today. Although he worked on the alchemist's goal of turning base metals into gold, he did so in a scientific manner. His writings included work on furnaces, crystallisation and distillation. He also described common compounds and substances, including acids, bases and salts. Here, he is pictured teaching at the school at Edessa in Mesopotamia (now Sanliurfa in Turkey). Engraving from the 1883 edition of Vies des Savants Illustres.
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