Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Galileo for Kids: His Life and Ideas

Galileo for Kids: His Life and Ideas

Richard Panchyk
For ages 8 to 12
Chicago Review Press, 2005   ISBN: 978-1556525667

Galileo was the son of Vincenzo and Giulia Galilei, both of whom came from highly respected and successful families. Galileo was born in Pisa in 1564 and when he was still quite young he proved to be a very inventive and intelligent boy. He enjoyed making “instruments and gadgets,” and as he grew up he showed that he had a considerable talent for painting and drawing. In fact by the time he was in his early teens his father came to realize that Galileo should do more with his life that become a wool merchant – which was his father’s trade. So a good education was planned for Galileo and when he was seventeen he went to the University of Pisa.

Galileo initially planned on becoming a doctor but he then was attracted to the world of mathematics and with his father’s reluctant blessing, he began to learn all there was to know about the subject. From the beginning Galileo did not accept that something was true until it had been proven to him to his satisfaction. This unsettled his teachers, but Galileo was determined that he wasn’t going to accept something simply because he was told to do so.

After he left the University of Pisa Galileo kept on learning new things and he took matters a step further. He began to experiment with his ideas, trying to find scientific methods to prove his theories. He was delighted when he was given a professorship at his old university. However his new colleagues were not quite so happy because they did not approve of the “young upstart who continued to reject the teachings of Aristotle.” Even when Galileo proved without a doubt that one of Aristotle’s theories was wrong, there were many people around who refused to accept Galileo’s ideas and experiments.

Because of the unhappy situation at the University of Pisa Galileo was very relieved when a friend helped him get a new job at the University of Padua. He was paid more and better still, he was “now free to pursue his science without fear of being attacked and ridiculed by his fellow professors.” During this time Galileo invented several useful machines and improved on old ones.

In was in the mid 1590’s that Galileo first began to think about the relationship between the sun and planets in the known universe. Could it be that the earth was not at the center of things after all and that the sun was instead? He became determined to examine the question further “in the search for truth.” It was this search and his subsequent writings on the subject which ended up getting Galileo into a lot of hot water with the church.

Using a telescope which he built himself Galileo made many observations about the movements of the planets and as a result became convinced that Copernicus had been right – the sun was indeed at the center of the known universe. When he published his findings he incurred the wrath of the very powerful Catholic Church and he paid dearly for doing what he thought was right.

This excellent title will not only show readers what Galileo his world was like, but it also gives young readers the opportunity to explore his ideas and experiments for themselves. Twenty five activities have been devised for readers to try and they include a gravity experiment, lunar observations, and an aperture experiment. The book is also full of illustrations and informative boxes and side bars.