Why Did Galileo Galilei Invent the Thermometer?

Written by sam kellenberg
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Why Did Galileo Galilei Invent the Thermometer?
Galileo is credited with the invention of the thermometer. (thermometer image by Oleg Verbitsky from Fotolia.com)

Galileo Galilei invented the thermometer in late 1593, well before many of his other inventions and discoveries, which occurred for the most part after 1600. Galileo was 31 when he invented the thermometer.

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Purpose

Prior to the work of Galileo and his associates, no specific means of measuring temperature existed. He and several other scientists made pointed efforts to develop such a mechanism. This desire to mathematise natural occurrences was widespread among the scientific community of the time.

The First Thermometer

Galileo's thermometer consisted of water in a glass bulb. The level of the water in the bulb changed according to the external temperature.

Reception

Galileo's invention was not hailed as world-altering at the time and it was not widely available to the public. In part this is because several other inventors created similar mechanisms within the same period.

Later Developments

One problem with the thermometer was that there were no numbers on its face. Santorio Santorio, a colleague of Galileo, created the numerical scale and was the first person to measure human temperature with a thermometer.

Fun Fact

The first thermometers were actually called thermoscopes, and there was no standard system of temperature until much later. Daniel Gabriel Farenheit and Anders Celsius both developed what became the international standard measurements of temperature in the 1600s.

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