Here’s a Macabre Auction Find: Two of Galileo’s Fingers & a Tooth

I thought this was an interesting, if morbid, story:  two of the famous scientist Galileo Galilei’s fingers and one of his teeth recently turned up at an auction

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was of course the famous Italian scientist who is probably best remembered for the first telescopic observations of the Moon, Jupiter, and Venus, and his support of the Copernican system which placed the sun at the center of the universe.  For his obstinate defense of the latter, he was eventually tried for heresy by the Catholic Inquisition. 

In 1737, some ninety-five years after his death, Galileo’s remains were exhumed for reburial in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, and it was at this time that three fingers, a tooth, and a vertebra were removed by some of his admirers.  The whereabouts of one finger and the vertebra had been known, but the other fingers and the tooth had been lost for over 100 years until their recent rediscovery.    

Plans are underway to put the newly found relics on display at Florence’s Institute and Museum of the History of Science.  Follow this link for the Museum’s description of the recent find.    

If you’re interested, Greensboro Public Library has some books about Galileo, including Galileo’s New Universe:  The Revolution in Our Understanding of the Cosmos by Stephen P. Maran and Laurence A. Marschall (2009); The Earth Moves:  Galileo and the Roman Inquisition by Dan Hofstadter (2009); Galileo’s Daughter:  A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel (1999); and Michael Sharratt’s Galileo:  Decisive Innovator (1996).


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