Named after the Italian physicist, mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei, known as the ‘Father of modern science’, who died in 1642, the museum contains the only surviving instruments designed and built by him, including the telescope lens he used to discover Jupiter’s moons.
But more bizarrely, also on display will be two of Galileo’s fingers – more precisely his thumb and middle finger from his right hand, mounted in a glass case, as well as another of his fingers and a tooth! In 1737 these items were taken from his body as it was being moved to a monumental tomb in Santa Croce Basilica, Florence. They stayed in the possession of one family for generations until disappearing in the early 20th century, before turning up at an auction last year.
The Roman Catholic Church condemned Galileo and he was tried by the Inquisition after his most famous book ‘Dialogue Concerning The Two Chief World Systems’ was published in 1632, in which he publicly agreed with the idea of Copernicus that the Sun, and not the Earth, was the centre of the Universe. He was kept under house arrest for the rest of his life.
It was only in 1992 that Pope John Paul II expressed regret about how Galileo had been treated by the church and admitted that errors had been made.