Old Fingers on Display in Florence

Florence: Renaissance art, leather goods, American college coeds on study abroad. As if that weren’t enough, now there’s a whole new compelling reason to visit the Tuscan town: Galileo’s fingers.

Yes, two of the astronomer’s fingers will be on display at the newly reopened Museum of History of Science, now appropriately called The Galileo Museum. While the notorious G died in 1642, some admirers removed three of his fingers, a tooth, and a vertebrae from his body when it was moved to a monumental tomb in 1737.

Galileo’s thumb and middle finger turned up at an auction last year after having been passed down from generation to generation in one family for years. The family’s records and historical documents helped confirm that the fingers did indeed belong to the famous scientist. The thumb and middle finger will join a third finger already on display in the museum. These fingers helped figure out that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the solar system; they, along with the greater body they were attached to, were condemned by the Church and put under house arrest.

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