Museo Galileo

Cosmos - - Contents - — AN­DREW MASTER­SON MU­SEUM Museo Galileo Florence, Italy

A MUST FOR globe-trot­ting fans of science his­tory, the Museo Galileo, in the beau­ti­ful Ital­ian city of Florence, is the only place on Earth where you can see not only some of the in­stru­ments used by Galileo Galilei, but also ac­tual bits of the man him­self.

The mu­seum, con­tained in the Palazzo Castel­lani, an eleventh cen­tury build­ing on the banks of the Arno river, con­tains the thumb, in­dex and mid­dle fin­ger of his right hand.

And while that may seem slightly grue­some, the sight of the dig­its def­i­nitely adds an ex­tra layer of fas­ci­na­tion to a cou­ple of the other ex­hibits – namely, the only two sur­viv­ing ex­am­ples of his tele­scopes, and the framed lens from an­other. Us­ing this last, in Jan­uary 1610, he dis­cov­ered the four largest satel­lites of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Cal­listo. To this day, they are still known as the Galilean moons.

Across two floors, the mu­seum also holds per­haps the world’s largest col­lec­tion of his­tor­i­cal sci­en­tific in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing many or­nately dec­o­rated ter­res­trial and ce­les­tial globes, early ther­mome­ters, wax anatom­i­cal mod­els and gor­geous wooden and brass ma­chines de­signed to test and demon­strate the prop­er­ties of elec­tro­mag­netism.

There are 18 rooms in all in the build­ing, one of which is dom­i­nated by a mas­sive and com­plex armil­lary sphere, the largest of its type in the world. It was de­signed by Ital­ian as­tronomer An­to­nio San­tucci in 1593, and por­trays a ‘uni­ver­sal ma­chine’ il­lus­trat­ing the con­cepts of Aris­to­tle.

The mu­seum costs only nine eu­ros to visit, and fea­tures or­gan­ised ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren and guided tours for adults – al­though the abil­ity to speak Ital­ian is nec­es­sary to ex­tract max­i­mum value from th­ese.

There has been a mu­seum in­side the Palazzo Castel­lani since the 1930s. How­ever, it closed in 2008 for ma­jor ren­o­va­tions. Renamed af­ter Galileo, it opened again in 2010 – to mark the 400th an­niver­sary of the great poly­math’s book­let, Sidereus Nun­cius ( The Starry Mes­sen­ger), one of the key doc­u­ments in modern science.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit: www.museo­


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