By James Dacey
It sounds like a plot to a Dan Brown novel, but this bizarre tale is true.
The middle finger, thumb and a tooth of Galileo Galilei will go on display at the Galileo Museum in Florence, which reopens this Friday after two years of renovations.
The preserved body parts were removed from the great Italian natural philosopher, along with his second finger and a vertebra, in a special ceremony 95 years after Galileo’s death.
While the second finger and vertebra have been preserved in Florence and Padua since 1737, the other body parts went missing at the start of last century.
Then, out of the blue, they turned up last year in a case bought at an auction by a renowned art collector from Florence. Subsequent tests have confirmed that the fingers and tooth do indeed belong to Galileo, and they have now been acquired by the Galileo Museum.
The reopening of the Galileo Museum coincides with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius – The Starry Messenger – considered by many to be the first formal text based on telescopic observations.