Intrigued Art Collector Discovers Galileo's Relics

Galileo Galileo, relics, art collector
ROME — Relics taken from the "Father of Modern Science," Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), have been rediscovered and will go on display sometime next spring.  Experts have examined the provenance of three items - two fingers and a tooth - found inside an 18th-century container and determined the specimens indeed belonged to Galileo.

Three fingers, a tooth and vertebra were removed from Galileo's corpse in 1737, as his remains were being moved to their final resting place in Florence's Santa Croce Basilica. While the vertebra and one finger were recovered and moved to the University of Padua and the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, respectively, the other two fingers and tooth were thought to be lost forever.

An Italian marquis was initially in possession of the three relics and passed them down to subsequent generations of his family. But after 1905, all traces of the items had disappeared. That is, until an intrigued art collector recently purchased a mysterious wooden case at auction and had the contents examined.

The wooden container was topped with Galileo's bust and held an 18th-century glass-blown vase inside of it. The tooth, thumb and middle finger from the scientist's right hand were inside the vase.
[Photo: Finger attributed to Galileo Galilei, courtesy AP Photo/Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze/ho]


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