Monday, 23 November 2009

Galileo's Finger

I'm afraid this is something that I wouldn't want in my collection despite its value and historical significance. Two fingers and a tooth that were removed from Galileo's body nearly 300 years ago and went missing about 100 years ago have recently resurfaced. They were purchased at auction by an astute buyer who recognized them and brought them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence.

Removing body parts from saints and other revered people was common practice in Europe hundreds of years ago. These items were thought to have special significance and sacred power. It's ironic that Galileo should be treated this way, given his history with the Catholic Church who declared him a heretic and sentenced him to life-long house arrest.

In this day and age I think it's time to put an end to displaying body parts like this. Although I'm a rationalist I find it unsettling and somewhat disrespectful. I like to think that Galileo is giving us one last gesture telling us what he thinks of it too...

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