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article imageGalileo's fingers, tooth found: To go on display

By Bob Gordon     Nov 21, 2009 in Entertainment
Relics of astronomer and mathematician, Galileo Galilei, that were believed lost have resurfaced. A finger, a thumb and a tooth inside an 18th-century blown-glass vase, inside a wooden case topped with a wooden bust of Galileo were recently identified.
Cristina Acidini, superintendent of Florence museums, told Discovery News that identification was straightforward:
The case was surmounted by a wooden bust of Galileo. Inside there was an 18th-century blown-glass vase which contained a tooth and two dried up fingers. It wasn't difficult to attribute the relics to Galileo as the case and its content fully match descriptions found in historic accounts.
Similarly, the provenance of the items is deemed to be confirmed. Paolo Galluzzi, the director of the Museum of the History of Science, in Florence told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Three fingers, a vertebra and a tooth were removed from the astronomer's body by admirers in 1737, 95 years after his death, as his corpse was being moved to a tomb opposite that of Michelangelo, in Santa Croce Basilica in Florence. By 1905 the tooth, the right thumb and the right middle finger had disappeared and were presumed lost.
According to the Associated Press that pessimistic supposition went out the window recently:
The container recently turned up at auction and was purchased by a private collector, intrigued by the contents but not sure they were Galileo's relics. The buyer eventually contacted Galluzzi and other Florence culture officials, who used detailed historical documents, as well as documentation from the family that had owned it for so long, to determine that the fingers and tooth were Galileo's.
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