50 Famous People – Galileo


There’s bad character designs, and there’s bad character designs.  While most of the artwork in the 50 Famous People series is only loosely based on existing photos or paintings, at best, Galileo doesn’t even bother to come close.  Sure, these mooks are aimed at young school kids, but the topics are pretty advanced, and the designs in this issue are kind of insulting, even compared with, say, the Einstein volume.  But I guess there is a reason for it.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Issue 16, Galileo Galilei, starts out with Mami asking Merrino about the shape of the planet, and the Sheep Prince states that it is a flat half-shell held up by 4 elephants standing on the back of a big turtle.  There’s a knock on the door – it’s the landlord.  He’s about to berate Mami for keeping pets in the building when Merrino’s butler – a goat in a suit – abducts him and erases his memory.  The goat explains that Merrino slept both during the trip to Earth, and through all of his science classes.  On the other hand, Mami doesn’t know about the heliocentric system, so the goat calls on Study Bell to start the lesson.


(Landlord gets carried away.)

I would assume that the reason for the childish manga designs is that the story is told from the point of view of Galileo’s 9-year-old daughter, Victoria, when Galileo himself was 45.  One day, her father reminisces about growing up.  His father had wanted him to be a doctor, but after entering Pisa University, he noticed that the chandeliers in the great hallways tended to sway in fixed arcs.  He started concentrating more on math than biology.  Additionally, at the time, professors would follow the Aristotelian method of repeating lectures that were handed down through the generations as “truth” with the students simply writing down what they were told.  Galileo felt that learning should follow experiments, and through his own tests discovered the principles of fixed weight pendulums.  After switching majors and graduating as a mathematician, he taught at Pisa before chafing at the restrictive nature of the school and moving to Padua.  At Pisa, he conducted the famous demonstration of 2 unequal weights dropped from the Tower of Pisa and landing at the same time, to a group of students.  Again, disproving Aristotle.


(Experimenting to understand the theory of fixed weight pendulums.)

Victoria is shown as trying to spend time with her father, but being constantly interrupted by assistants, visiting professors and leading townspeople.  He obtains a high-quality Venetian glass sample, which he hand polishes to create lenses for his first telescope.  His first discovery is that again Aristotle is wrong – instead of the moon being a perfectly smooth, clean ball, it’s pocked with mountains and craters.  Additionally, Jupiter is shown to have four satellites, and Venus has phases just like the Earth’s moon.  Putting all of this together along with the writings of Copernicus 50 years earlier, he realizes that instead of the Earth being the center of the universe, the Earth and other planets must be revolving around the Sun. However, his elation is short-lived. If he publishes his findings, he’ll be burned at the stake by the Church, just as Giordano Bruno had been.  Realizing that he has no choice, he sends Victoria to a monastery, publishes his findings, and gets called in front of the tribunal.  He escapes immediate punishment as a heretic as long as he teaches both the Church’s views of the universe alongside his own.  But, when Dialogue was published, with Victoria’s help, the Church felt Galileo was mocking them and the Earth-based system, so he was placed under house arrest, and his views as a scientist were at war internally with his desire to stay alive. As given in the manga, a letter from Victoria, telling him that his friends and former students were continuing to conduct experiments with his telescopes helped buoy his spirits at the end.


(Textbook section with samples of Galileo’s notes.)

The textbook section focuses heavily on his time at Pisa and Padua, as well as discussing the backgrounds of his parents.  There are pictures of the Pisa chandeliers, the Tower of Pisa, and the house where he was imprisoned, along with a brief timeline.  There’s a section showing his notes, a painting of the trial in front of the Church, and a short biography for Virgina.  Probably the most visually exciting part is the 2-page spread of satellite photos of the sun and planets.  The wrap-up manga shows that Merrino has learned nothing from this lesson.  Then there’s the three books for recommended reading.

The TCG cards are for; Genghis Khan, Pope Innocent III, Richard the 1st, Simon de Montfort, Yaritsu Sozai (耶律楚材, associate of Genghis Khan), King John, Thomas Aquinas, Kublai Khan and Roger Bacon.

Like I mentioned above, I think the manga this time is particularly weak, even if it is aimed at children.  The biography is sketchy and leaves out the fact that all three of Galileo’s children were illegitimate and the two daughters were probably sent to the monastery because they were considered unmarriable.  Galileo’s “inner torment” at having to decide between holding on to the idea of an orbiting Earth and being branded a heretic is probably overblown as well.  But the photos at the back are worth the $6 cover price.

 

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