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Mathematical Problems in Engineering
Volume 2015, Article ID 649341, 10 pages
Research Article

On Galileo’s Tallest Column

1Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad (GIAU+S UPM), Avenida Juan de Herrera 4, 28040 Madrid, Spain
2ETS de Arquitectura de Madrid (UPM), Avenida Juan de Herrera 4, 28040 Madrid, Spain

Received 2 April 2015; Revised 19 June 2015; Accepted 28 June 2015

Academic Editor: Reza Jazar

Copyright © 2015 Mariano Vázquez Espí et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The height at which an unloaded column will fail under its own weight was calculated for first time by Galileo for cylindrical columns. Galileo questioned himself if there exists a shape function for the cross section of the column with which it can attain a greater height than the cylindrical column. The problem is not solved since then, although the definition of the so named “constant maximum strength” solids seems to give an affirmative answer to Galileo’s question, in the form of shapes which seem to attain infinite height, even when loaded with a useful load at the top. The main contribution of this work is to show that Galileo’s problem is (i) an important problem for structural design theory of buildings and other structures, (ii) not solved by the time being in any sense, and (iii) an interesting problem for mathematicians involved in related but very different problems (as Euler’s tallest column). A contemporary formulation of the problem is included as a result of a research on the subject.