Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hanging out with Galileo - Venice

This summer has been a fantastic history of science lesson for me. I visited Darwin's Down house and Oxford, followed by Venice (see this bit about the Peter Greenaway exhibit) and Florence. Galileo, of course, looms large over Florence and fittingly, there was a large exhibit in the city dedicated not only to him but also the human quest to make sense of the universe (more on the exhibit later). But Venice has its own bit of history with Galileo. From the top of St. Mark's Campanile, Galileo first demonstrated the power of his newly built telescope to the Doge of Venice, Leonardo Donato, in August 1609 (yup - exactly 400 years ago) and to the Senate of Venice (right). The telescope was not pointed to the sky - but to the distant ships, churches, and the markets. The military implications were clear (especially for a maritime city like Venice) and the Doge was suitably impressed. As a result of this demonstration, Galileo was named professor to the University of Padua.

Venice and St. Mark's campanile at the time of sunset.

Here is a close-up of the campanile (above-left). The tower was built in 1173 to serve as a light house and its present appearance dates back to the early 16th century. However, the original tower collapsed in 1902 - but was rebuilt to its original form ten years later. There are five bells in the tower - each bell with a different purpose. For example, one of the bells tolled the start and the end of the working day, whereas another warned of an execution. Similarly, one of the bells was dedicated to summon senators to the Doge's palace. I took the picture of one of the bells (above-right) - hoping that this is the execution bell.

In case you are wondering about the views from the Campanile, here are three images (below) taken from the top of the tower (also, the picture of the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore on the Peter Greenaway post was taken from the top):

I also had a chance to give a lecture about Galileo to a Venetian cat. The telescope bit went quite well (below-left) but I began to loose my audience (below-right) when I started talking about Galileo's theory of tides.


Atif Khan said...

Nice efforts of convincing the cute cat :). I bet cat would have listened if you tried Carl Sagan Cosmos :).

Salman Hameed said...

I agree. :)