Collecting Galileo

The BBC this week is covering how the Galileo museum in Florence has enhanced their Galileo collection:
The museum has long had a Galileo finger on display near the entrance — now they have more! A tooth and a second finger have been reunited with the first.

If the cultural practice of venerating relics seems as odd when it is of a scientific as well as a religious figure, then perhaps it’s a good thing that the History of Science Collections of the University of Oklahoma Libraries has an unrivaled collection of Galileo’s books instead (and perhaps a hair or two, who knows). OU has a remarkable collection of Galileo’s books: a complete set of first editions, four of which contain Galileo’s handwriting, including three of his own copies. Collecting Galileo body parts is not within our scope. We welcome academic researchers from around the world, but CSI investigators should go to Florence.

The BBC reporter pointed out that Galileo “pointed the way” to modern science… probably with these very fingers. Now that the Florence museum has more of Galileo’s digits, they’ll need to create an Index of Fingers to go with their index finger. We shall organize a history of science summer school to Florence to investigate – and take a book or two and see if the fingers move in an attempt to write even more notes in our editions that contain his handwriting. While we’re working on a Finding Aid for Galileo’s astronomy, they’re working on a Finding Aid for Galileo’s anatomy. Galileo is universally recognized as a pioneer in many fields — astronomy, physics, engineering, mathematics, etc. — but with this story we now see him as an un-extractable figure in the history of dentistry. And a founder of digital projects in the history of science.

Many thanks to Robin for starting the ball rolling on this hilarious occasion!

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3 Responses to Collecting Galileo

  1. Kelly Lankford says:

    I much prefer the “books” focus of the Collections! I miss the place so much.

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