Galileo Galilei, a polymath, the father of modern science, and the father of observational astronomy, transformed the course of scientific development and technology. His scientific methods were based on a belief that the laws of nature have an underlying mathematical nature, but their simplicity is hidden from our casual observations behind the complexities caused by local conditions and environment.
Portrait of Galileo Galilei (1636) by Justus Sustermans (Public Domain)
Galileo pointed out the correct nature and use of machines. For ages, people believed in discovering the mechanism of a self-contained perpetual motion machine like nature. Galileo pointed out that the purpose of a machine is not to outwit the laws of nature but to take their advantage. To use the power made available by nature for man’s own purpose and make his work easy.
Galileo quantified the concepts of work, power, and energy. He established the science behind the mechanics of machines. Galileo changed the norm from qualitative to quantitative. For example, people already knew from experience that the force needed to move of a freely suspended body is bigger than the force needed to maintain it’s equilibrium. But, Galileo was the one to indicate that this inequality in nature exists because of the external factors like friction between gears, bearings, and pulleys. If we eliminate these external factors, it will be evident that both of the forces will have equal value. Galileo formulated this and gave the principle of inertia, i.e. the body will continue to be in motion unless some external resistive force work against to stop it.
Galileo also framed the science of strength of materials. He applied his principle of the lever to determine a general expression for the strength of a load carrying beam. Even though he forgot to account for the elasticity of beam material, he initiated a scientific revolution in the fields of technological methods, material strengths, and theory of structures. Galileo’s ideas were worked out to determine the work capacity of machines like water wheel and steam engines. He laid down the foundations of the science behind the technology.