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Galileo Galilei (15641642)

Galileo Galilei was an Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher who is closely associated with the scientific revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope, a variety of astronomical observations, the first and second laws of motion, and effective support for Copernicanism. He has been referred to as the "father of modern astronomy," as the "father of modern physics," and as the "father of science." The work of Galileo is considered to be a significant break from that of Aristotle. In addition, his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church is taken as a major early example of the conflict of authority and freedom of thought, particularly with science, in Western society.

Galileo was born in Pisa, in the Tuscany region of Italy. He was the son of a mathematician and musician, and was the first and most talented of seven children. Galileo attended the University of Pisa but was forced to cease his study there for financial reasons. However, he was offered a position on its faculty in 1589 and taught mathematics. Soon after, he moved to the University of Padua and served on its faculty, teaching geometry, mechanics, and astronomy until 1610. During this time, he explored science and made many significant discoveries.

In 1612, Galileo went to Rome, where he joined the Accademia dei Lincei and observed sunspots. In 1612, opposition arose to the Copernican theories, which Galileo supported. In 1614, from the pulpit of Santa Maria Novella, Father Tommaso Caccini denounced Galileo's opinions on the motion of the Earth, judging them dangerous and close to heresy. Galileo went to Rome to defend himself against these accusations, but, in 1616, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino personally handed Galileo an admonition enjoining him to neither advocate nor teach Copernican astronomy as religious doctrine. In 1622, Galileo wrote the The Assayer (Saggiatore), which was approved and published in 1623. In 1624, he developed the first known example of the microscope. In 1630, he returned to Rome to apply for a license to print the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published in Florence in 1632. In October of that year, however, he was ordered to appear before the Holy Office in Rome. The court issued a sentence of condemnation and forced Galileo to abjure. As a result, he was confined in Siena and eventually, in December 1633, he was allowed to retire to his villa in Arcetri. In 1638, almost totally blind, Galileo published his final book, Two New Sciences, in Leiden. He died in Arcetri on January 8, 1642, in the company of his student Vincenzo Viviani.

Louis XIV (1638-1715)

Born in 1638, Louis XIV was only five years old when he ascended to the throne of France. The regency, confided to his mother, Anne of Austria, was marked by a period of rebellion known as the Fronde (1648-1653), led first by the nobility and later by the urban commoners. In 1660, Louis XIV married Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain. The following year, on the death of his godfather and prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, the 23 year old king announced that he alone would govern France. From that time on, he convened a council on a daily basis, from which he excluded grand nobles, surrounding himself instead with ministers who pledged their allegiance to him.

The first twenty years of the king's reign were brilliant and resulted in the administrative and financial reorganization of the kingdom, development of trade and manufacturing, reformation of the army, and numerous military victories. In addition, Louis encouraged an extraordinary blossoming of the arts and sciences. Known as the Sun King, Louis XIV reigned for seventy-two years, and the the 17th century is labeled as the Age of Louis XIV. His rule has been hailed as the supreme example of Absolutist government.