8 things you probably didn’t know about Galileo Galilei


Life of Galileo tells the story of Galileo’s life as his ‘heretical’ discoveries about the solar system brought him to the attention of the inquisition.

Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician. He played a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. Here’s 8 facts about him that you probably didn’t know.

1. Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy, on the 15th of February 1564, he died on the 8th of January 1642.

2. Galileo firmly believed that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, however he did not believe in his Kepler’s theory that the moon caused the tides.


3. Contrary to popular opinion – Galileo didn’t invent the telescope. He got the idea from a Dutch spectacles maker who had invented a spyglass. (He was the first to use a telescope to observe the sky, though.)

6. After 400 years, Galileo’s telescope still survives, and is available in the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza in Italy. The museum has two telescopes and objective lenses, which were built by Galileo himself.


4. For a brief period of time, Galileo also worked as an art teacher in the Italian city of Florence.

5. It took until 1992, three years after Galileo’s namesake spacecraft was launched, for the Vatican to formally clear Galileo of any wrongdoing.


7. The middle finger of Galileo’s right hand has been exhibited at the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy.

8. Galileo lost his sight in the last years of his life. It is said that he went blind because he used to observe the sun for long stretches of time while he was looking at sun spots with his telescope.

Life of Galileo runs 6 May – 1 July at the Young Vic directed by BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice).  Brendan Cowell plays Galileo following his acclaimed performance in Yerma. Book tickets now.

Image credits:

Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Giusto Sustermans (1636). Credit: nmm.ac.uk
Andreas Cellarius’s illustration of the Copernican system, from the Harmonia Macrocosmica (1708).
Artist’s impression of the Galileo Spacecraft courtesy of NASA
Galileo’s telescope courtesy of Museo Galileo, Verona, Italy
Galileo’s middle finger courtesy of Museo Galileo, Verona, Italy


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