05 April 2009

400 years of science

This weekend is 100 Hours of Astronomy, part of the International Year of Astronomy, which in turn celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope. As a biologist, I’ve already celebrated Darwin Day with two posts (a phylogenetic tree gallery and “What would Darwin think?”), but I want to take second to celebrate Galileo’s legacy, which is much bigger than Darwin’s.

I”n not talking about the use of the telescope, the discovery of Jupiter’s moons, or that falling objects all accelerate at the same rate.

Galileo’s legacy is nothing less than science itself.

Galileo was the first practitioner of scientist as we understand it today. As Edward Tufte wrote in Beautiful Evidence, Galileo contributed a “forever idea,” that you should be able settle arguments with “visible certainty.” We would now call that “empiricism.”

Thanks, Galileo, for creating a career for people like me.

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