Galileo in Rome for Inquisition On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rometo face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642. Galileo, the son of a musician, was born February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Italy. He entered the University of Pisa planning to study medicine, but shifted his focus to philosophy and mathematics. In 1589, he became a professor at Pisa for several years, during which time he demonstrated that the speed of a falling object is not proportional to its weight, as Aristotle had believed. According to some reports, Galileo conducted his research by dropping objects of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From 1592 to 1630, Galileo was a math professor at the University of Padua, where he developed a telescope that enabled him to observe lunar mountains and craters, the four largest satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Jupiter. He also discovered that the Milky Way was made up of stars. Following the publication of his research in 1610, Galileo gained acclaim and was appointed court mathematician at Florence. Galileo’s research led him to become an advocate of the work of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1573). However, the Copernican theory of a sun-centered solar system conflicted with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which essentially ruled Italy at the time. Church teachings contended that Earth, not the sun, was at the center of the universe. In 1633, Galileo was brought before the Roman Inquisition, a judicial system established by the papacy in 1542 to regulate church doctrine. This included the banning of books that conflicted with church teachings. The Roman Inquisition had its roots in the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the purpose of which was to seek out and prosecute heretics, considered enemies of the state. Today, Galileo is recognized for making important contributions to the study of motion and astronomy. His work influenced later scientists such as the English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who developed the law of universal gravitation. In 1992, the Vatican formally acknowledged its mistake in condemning Galileo. 1822 Ashley advertises for western fur trappers Missouri Lieutenant Governor William Ashley places an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Advisor seeking 100 “enterprising young men” to engage in fur trading on the Upper Missouri. A Virginia native, Ashley had moved to Missouri just after President Thomas Jefferson concluded the Louisiana Purchase from France, which made the region American territory. Young and eager to make a name for himself, he entered into a partnership with Andrew Henry to begin manufacturing gunpowder and lead, two commodities that were in short supply in the new nation. During the War of 1812, Ashley’s business prospered, and he also joined the Missouri militia, where he eventually earned the rank of general. When Missouri became a state in 1822, he used his business and military fame to win election as lieutenant governor. Casting about for opportunities to enrich both Missouri and his own pocketbook, Ashley realized that St. Louis was ideally situated to exploit the fur trade on the upper Missouri River. Ashley recruited his old friend Henry as a partner, and the two men placed their famous advertisement asking for robust, adventurous young men to come west to join a fur trapping expedition up the Missouri. Among the scores who responded and came to St. Louis were such future legendary mountain men as Jedediah Smith and Jim Bridger, as well as the famous river man Mike Fink. In time, these men and dozens of others would uncover many of the geographic mysteries of the Far West. In 1822, Ashley and a small band of his fur trappers built a trading post on the Yellowstone River of Montana in order to expand outward from the Missouri River. Arikara Indians, though, were deeply hostile to Ashley’s attempts to undercut their long-standing position as middlemen in the fur trade. Arikara attacks eventually forced the men to abandon the Yellowstone post. Out of desperation, Ashley hit on a new strategy: instead of building central permanent forts along the major rivers, he decided to send his trappers overland in small groups traveling by horseback. By avoiding the river arteries, the trappers could both escape detection by hostile Indians and develop untapped new fur regions. Almost by accident, Ashley invented the famous “rendezvous” system that revolutionized the American fur trade. In order for the trappers to obtain necessary supplies and deliver their furs, Ashley told the trappers to meet with him in a large meadow near the Henry’s Fork of Wyoming’s Green River in the early summer of 1825. This first fur trapper rendezvous proved a huge success. Ashley took home a tidy profit for his efforts, while the fur trappers not only had an opportunity to trade for supplies, but a chance to enjoy a few weeks of often drunken socializing. After organizing a second highly profitable rendezvous in 1826, Ashley decided to sell out. His rendezvous system, though, continued to be used by others, and eventually became the foundation for the powerful Rocky Mountain Fur Company. With plenty of money in the bank, Ashley was able to return to his first love, politics. He won election to Congress three times and once to the Senate, where he helped further the interests of the western land that had made him rich. 1861 First Medal of Honor action The earliest military action to be revered with a Medal of Honor award is performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict. Near Apache Pass, in southeastern Arizona, Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go to the rescue of Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom, who was trapped with 60 men of the U.S. Seventh Infantry by the Chiricahua Apaches. Irwin and 14 men, initially without horses, began the 100-mile trek to Bascom’s forces riding on mules. After fighting and capturing Apaches along the way and recovering stolen horses and cattle, they reached Bascom’s forces on February 14 and proved instrumental in breaking the siege. The first U.S.-Apache conflict had begun several days before, when Cochise, the Chiricahua Apache chief, kidnapped three white men to exchange for his brother and two nephews held by the U.S. Army on false charges of stealing cattle and kidnapping a child. When the exchange was refused, Cochise killed the white men, and the army responded by killing his relatives, setting off the first of the Apache wars. Although Irwin’s bravery in this conflict was the earliest Medal of Honor action, the award itself was not created until 1862, and it was not until January 21, 1894, that Irwin received the nation’s highest military honor.