Galileo didn't invent thermometer that bears his name

Sep 05, 2012

The great Italian scientist Galileo may have been the first person to use a telescope to observe the heavens, helping spark the scientific revolution of the 16th century, but Galileo definitely did not invent the famous thermometer and captivating curiosity that bears his name. That's the message of an article in ACS' Journal of Chemical Education.

Peter Loyson explains that a number of companies sell so-called "Galilean thermometers," sealed tubes of liquid in which float and sink with changes in ambient temperature. Modern versions have morphed into elegant pieces with multi-colored spheres and gold-plated temperature tags. The instruments rely on a liquid, like water or alcohol, whose increases as temperature falls. The glass spheres each are made to a precise density that matches that of the suspension liquid at a specific temperature. When a sphere floats midway up the tube, it represents the temperature of the room.

Although Galileo may have originated the idea in a 1638 book, the Accademia del Cimento, an early scientific society founded in Florence in 1657 by Galileo's students, actually deserves the credit, Loyson says. The Accademia del Cimento—"the Academy of Experiment"—developed other instruments, as well. Loyson suggests "Florentine " as a more appropriate name for these colorful marvels.

Explore further: Olive oil more stable and healthful than seed oils for frying food

More information: "Galilean Thermometer Not So Galilean" J. Chem. Educ., 2012, 89 (9), pp 1095–1096. DOI: 10.1021/ed200793g

Abstract
A Galilean thermometer is a device for measuring the temperature of a liquid based on the density variation with temperature. It is named after Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian physicist, who apparently invented it. This article examines whether he did invent this Galilean thermometer and shows that he invented another type of thermometer, called a thermoscope or air thermometer, which is something completely different. The credit for developing the "Galilean thermometer" must go to the Accademia del Cimento, a research organization active in Florence from 1657 to 1667 under the leadership of Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It is suggested that the "Galilean thermometer" should instead be called a "Florentine thermometer" after the place where it was developed.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Galileo's telescope on historic visit to Philly

Apr 02, 2009

(AP) -- Though it looks like a cardboard tube that got left out in the rain, it's a priceless instrument whose owner changed the world. The mottled brown cylinder on display at The Franklin Institute science ...

Looking through Galileo's eyes

Jan 08, 2009

In 1609, exactly four centuries ago, Galileo revolutionised humankind's understanding of our position in the Universe when he used a telescope for the first time to study the heavens, which saw him sketching radical new views ...

Museum: Galileo's fingers, tooth are found

Nov 21, 2009

(AP) -- Two fingers and a tooth removed from Galileo Galilei's corpse in a Florentine basilica in the 18th century and given up for lost have been found again and will soon be put on display, an Italian museum ...

Recommended for you

Amino acids key to new gold leaching process

Oct 24, 2014

Curtin University scientists have developed a gold and copper extraction process using an amino acid–hydrogen peroxide system, which could provide an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to ...

Researchers create designer 'barrel' proteins

Oct 23, 2014

Proteins are long linear molecules that fold up to form well-defined 3D shapes. These 3D molecular architectures are essential for biological functions such as the elasticity of skin, the digestion of food, ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

hemitite
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2012
Next they'll tell us that Amargo Vespucci didn't discover the New World!
ValeriaT
not rated yet Sep 05, 2012
Stigler's law of eponymy is a rule proposed by University of Chicago statistics professor Stephen Stigler, which says: "No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer." Stigler named the sociologist Robert K. Merton as the discoverer of "Stigler's law", consciously making "Stigler's law" exemplify itself.