Galileo's fingers found

A jar containing two of Galileo's missing fingers has been located. The jar containing the digits has been missing for more than a century. An individual purchased them at auction and delivered them to the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy. The two fingers will join a third finger (image below) and a tooth that were removed from Galileo's corpse in 1737.
 Galileo Images Finger The museum plans to display the fingers and tooth in March 2010, after it re-opens following a renovation, Galluzzi said.

The museum has had the third Galileo finger since 1927, so the digits will be reunited for the first time in centuries, he added.

Removing body parts from the corpse was an echo of a practice common with saints, whose digits, tongues and organs were revered by Catholics as relics with sacred powers.

"Galileo's missing fingers found in jar"


  1. What happened to rest in peace?

    Poor ol’ Galileo is resting in pieces!

    If there was ever a good reason to be cremated, this might be it.

  2. this is great, for the longest time the Catholic Church thought Galileo was giving them the finger. Now he can give them the Shocker!

  3. It wasn’t only Catholics who thought “relics” were groovy. HEATHENS were into body parts as well!

    If I had a nickel for every temple in Asia built around one of Buddha’s eyelashes….

    1. @Adam: I’m guessing that if the buddha had an eyelash for every temple built around one of the buddha’s eyelashes, he would have been a werewolf.

      A very serene werewolf.

  4. I find it deliciously ironic both that his body was treated like that of a saint, when in fact the Vatican hated him at the time, and that it was the third finger that was kept, appropriately giving the Church the finger…

    1. I’m sure there’s a dystopian future novel in there somewhere, with cloistered “Round Earthers” hiding Saint Galileo’s relics from the Palinistas and secretly building a telescope in a barn.

  5. Am I the only one that thinks the finger looks excessively long? Or were fingers just longer in the 1700s?

  6. This reminds me the chinese proverb “When someone is pointing at the moon, only the fool looks at the finger”. Well OK, it’s not pointing at the moon anymore, but it probably did at some point..

  7. Is this really Galileo´s finger? Is there any proof it is the real thing?

    Similar artefacts have been faked along the centuries.
    Do not believe of its originality unless there is real scientific evidence that this is the actual finger of Galileo´s

  8. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when I got to the Museum of the History of Science this summer and found it was being renovated, with Galileo’s middle finger on tour somewhere. Still a nifty museum, though, even at 1/3 strength.

  9. It’s a bit simplistic and harsh to say that the Vatican “hated” Galileo. There were, in fact, many of the more learned clergy who understood the truth of his observations, but felt he should keep his mouth shut, at least for the time being. In the midst of the Reformation, the Catholic and Protestant faiths were both keen to brand themselves as the more “traditional” and “pure” Christianity, and to paint the other side as dangerous, free-thinking radicals. The truth of scientific inquiry, especially in a field as remote from practical concerns as astronomy, was considered a trivial concern compared to the struggle for spiritual power.

  10. By the way – this museum is way cool. It is chock full of measuring gadgets and telescopes from years past. Highly recommended for the geek visiting Florence.

    A cool example, as found on Flickr. I wish I had been able to spend more time in this place, and I wish more of the displays were in English.

    1. Jake, that’s my Facebook icon! (With me and the missus reflected in the armillary instead of those two suspicious-looking strangers.) I have a bunch of photos from the museum on Flickr as well, if you’re interested.

  11. Galileo’s defeated essence is gradually re-assembling his body.

    When the Star Lord’s form is complete he will rise again.

    Then the Catholic Church will get what’s coming to them.

  12. One of Galileo’s biggest followers was Giovanni Battista Hodierna, a priest from Sicily. He compiled what would become one of the first deep sky catalogs, predating the one compiled by Charles Messier by over a century.
    Can’t speak for the rest of the church, however…

  13. We deeply regretted missing this when we visited Florence this fall. But we did get to go to La Specola, which was *awesome.* (Thanks, Atlas Obscura, and thanks, BB, for the rec.)

  14. So the auction was about changing who manages the rights to Galileo’s digits. Another DRM story from boingboing.

  15. I wonder how many penises of famous people are sitting in the basements of museums. Come to think of it, how documented is this process of removing bits and ends?

    How does one authenticate the eBay “Hitler’s penis Item # 2357654” ??

  16. The Catholic church persecuted Galileo because he dared to say that the earth revolved around the sun. The church threw him in prison for a decade, took all his earthly possessions & land, and when he got out of prison, the church banished him from the land forever. This is religianity & churchianity using spiritualism while employing seduction & terror for greedy financial gain & power. This is the church giving you the “finger”.

  17. Oooh, this CNN article has much better info than several news sites I came across. I actually did a bit of digging on the background of the story, and have posted it on my blog, which Galileo aficionados and other death-obsessed types can find on my profile page.

  18. I recall “The Book Of Lists” back in the eighties reporting a list of famous people’s body parts and among them was Napoleon Bonapart’s penis. It measured 1.5″. Please, someone, anyone, tell me this wasn’t taken from him as some sort of sainted charm as well.

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