Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. However, this is considered an apocryphal tale, its only source being Galileo’s secretary.
During World War II, the Allies discovered that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and its campanile, and thus refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.
On February 27, 1964, the government of Italy requested aid in preventing the tower from toppling. It was, however, considered important to retain the current tilt, due to the role that this element played in promoting the tourism industry of Pisa.
A multinational task force of engineers, mathematicians, and historians gathered on the Azores islands to discuss stabilisation methods. It was found that the tilt was increasing in combination with the softer foundations on the lower side. Many methods were proposed to stabilise the tower, including the addition of 800 tonnes of lead counterweights to the raised end of the base.
In 1987 the tower was declared as part of the Piazza del Duomo UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the neighbouring cathedral, baptistery and cemetery.
On January 7, 1990, after over two decades of stabilisation studies, and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989, the tower was closed to the public. The bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of the tower were vacated for safety. The final solution to prevent the collapse of the tower was to slightly straighten the tower to a safer angle, by removing 38 cubic metres (1,342 cubic feet) of soil from underneath the raised end. The tower was straightened by 45 centimetres (17.7 inches), returning to its 1838 position. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on December 15, 2001, and was declared stable for at least another 300 years.
In May 2008, after the removal of another 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of ground, engineers announced that the Tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated it would be stable for at least 200 years.