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How did we get here? Part 4

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

As I mentioned previously, Christopher Columbus certainly knew the world was round, and following up from him was Copernicus, who posited the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around.

Galileo was born in 1564 (along with Shakespeare) and died in 1642, outliving Shakespeare by 26 years. Galileo’s full name was Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei. He was from Pisa, Italy. Galileo invented the thermoscope (predecessor to the modern thermometer), various styles of military compasses and other scientific instruments. He is best known, however, for his work with the telescope, in particular his observations of the planets and our moon.

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He was a proponent of heliocentrism, the theory put forth by Copernicus, previously mentioned. Galileo defended heliocentrism with a series of astronomical observations in 1609 (a mere 412 years ago). This got him in trouble with the Pope. His heliocentrism proposition was taken as a reinterpretation of the Bible, something akin to Protestantism, and putting him in hot water.

Likely, at this point, Galileo would have preferred to have been a native of, say, Australia, rather than Pisa, an inconveniently close distance to the Pope in Rome. I’ll spare you the details, but an inquisition was held with threats galore dangled in front of Galileo. He did not budge on his view that the Earth revolves around the sun. Among other actions, Galileo was sentenced to house arrest in 1633.

House arrest did not deter Galileo. During this time, he wrote “Two New Sciences,” which he succeeded in having published in Holland – out of the reach of Rome. The two new sciences were kinematics (the branch of mechanics concerned with the motion of objects without reference to the forces which cause the motion) and strength of materials, two core subjects in any engineering curriculum to this day. Albert Einstein praised this book.

This is probably as deep, dear reader, as you wish I delve into science, so let’s move on to Galileo’s contemporary, William Shakespeare. A brief life, only 52 years, Shakespeare likely provided the most prolific advancement of the English language by anyone at any time. You have likely, on purpose or unawares, quoted Shakespeare.

Bill Bryson, in his book “The Mother Tongue,” credits Shakespeare with creating an astonishing 10 percent of the English words used at that time. Shakespeare’s works and the works written about Shakespeare leave this author intimidated when it comes to saying anymore about this great writer.

I will say, in the early 1990s, I coined a word myself which I am still waiting to catch on. I created this word after taking a short commuter airplane trip where the flight attendants said they had no room in the overhead luggage compartments because they were full of plastic bags of used aluminum cans from their flights of that day. They were taking them to a city with aluminum can recycling; hence, no room for paying passengers' hand luggage.

That word was “irrecyclaphobia.” The definition? Irrecyclaphobia is the fear of not recycling.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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