Anatomy of a fall: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the story of g

  • Article (PDF)
  • 5 pages
  • Level: high school and up

The first person to conduct precise gravity experiments was Fr. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, S. J. in the early seventeenth century.  This 2012 article from the magazine Physics Today discusses Fr. Riccioli’s experiments regarding how gravity works and what was the acceleration due to gravity (now known as ‘g’).

Click here for a the article in PDF format (from Physics Today).

From the article:

Riccioli set a fine example for all the free-fall experiments that would follow. He was thorough. He provided an extensive description of his experimental procedure. He gathered data of sufficient quality to assess accurately the model in question.

But Riccioli’s work is also a standard of scientific integrity: He had set out expecting to disprove Galileo, but even when his experiments vindicated Galileo, he made a point of promptly sharing the news with an interested colleague. His attitude, like his experiment, was that of a fine scientist.