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Art and Images in Psychiatry
August 2010

Galileo Galilei: Scientist and Artist

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2010 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2010

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(8):770-771. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.95

Eight long years with tongue in cheek/Of what he knew and did not speak.

Then temptation grew too great/And Galileo challenged fate.

Life of Galileo, Bertolt Brecht1(p66)

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Italian mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and suspected heretic, is widely proposed to be the father of modern science. His father, a musicologist, discouraged Galileo's hopes of becoming a painter and encouraged him instead to study medicine. Ultimately Galileo (cover) found mathematics more enticing and joined the faculty in mathematics, first in Pisa and then in Padua. During his 18 years as professor of mathematics in Padua, he embraced experimental science. In 1609 and 1610 he made the first systematic observations of the moon, the Milky Way, and Jupiter's moons and published them in his small classic book, Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger).2 His observations of the moon upset traditional views of a pure unblemished moon, a place linked to the purity of the Virgin Mary. Galileo's moon was irregular, mountainous, and pockmarked with lunar impact craters.