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In the mid-16th century, various European scientists experimentally disproved the Aristotelian notion that heavier objects fall at a faster rate. In particular, the Spanish Dominican priest Domingo de Soto wrote in 1551 that bodies in free fall uniformly accelerate. De Soto may have been influenced by earlier experiments conducted by other Dominican priests in Italy, including those by Benedetto Varchi, Francesco Beato, Luca Ghini, and Giovan Bellaso which contradicted Aristotle's teachings on the fall of bodies. The mid-16th century Italian physicist Giambattista Benedetti published papers claiming that, due to specific gravity, objects made of the same material but with different masses would fall at the same speed. With the 1586 Delft tower experiment, the Flemish physicist Simon Stevin observed that two cannonballs of differing sizes and weights fell at the same rate when dropped from a tower. Finally, in the late 16th century, Galileo Galilei's careful measurements of balls rolling down inclines allowed him to firmly establish that gravitational acceleration is the same for all objects. Galileo postulated that air resistance is the reason that objects with a low density and high surface area fall more slowly in an atmosphere.
A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely. When a pendulum is displaced sideways from its resting, equilibrium position, it is subject to a restoring force due to gravity that will accelerate it back toward the equilibrium position. When released, the restoring force acting on the pendulum's mass causes it to oscillate about the equilibrium position, swinging back and forth. The time for one complete cycle, a left swing and a right swing, is called the period. The period depends on the length of the pendulum and also to a slight degree on the amplitude, the width of the pendulum's swing.
The English scientist Robert Hooke studied the conical pendulum around 1666, consisting of a pendulum that is free to swing in two dimensions, with the bob rotating in a circle or ellipse. He used the motions of this device as a model to analyze the orbital motions of the planets. Hooke suggested to Isaac Newton in 1679 that the components of orbital motion consisted of inertial motion along a tangent direction plus an attractive motion in the radial direction. This played a part in Newton's formulation of the law of universal gravitation. Robert Hooke was also responsible for suggesting as early as 1666 that the pendulum could be used to measure the force of gravity.
The presence of the acceleration of gravity g in the periodicity equation (1) for a pendulum means that the local gravitational acceleration of the Earth can be calculated from the period of a pendulum. A pendulum can therefore be used as a gravimeter to measure the local gravity, which varies by over 0.5% across the surface of the Earth.[Note 2] The pendulum in a clock is disturbed by the pushes it receives from the clock movement, so freeswinging pendulums were used, and were the standard instruments of gravimetry up to the 1930s.
The difference between clock pendulums and gravimeter pendulums is that to measure gravity, the pendulum's length as well as its period has to be measured. The period of freeswinging pendulums could be found to great precision by comparing their swing with a precision clock that had been adjusted to keep correct time by the passage of stars overhead. In the early measurements, a weight on a cord was suspended in front of the clock pendulum, and its length adjusted until the two pendulums swung in exact synchronism. Then the length of the cord was measured. From the length and the period, g could be calculated from equation (1). 2b1af7f3a8