What began in a wardrobe

As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in January 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.

Museo Galileo

If I’m being perfectly honest, I almost didn’t go into this museum. I seem to remember standing outside of it, considering the day’s plans and whether I had the time or the interest, and then… it began to rain, so that I took shelter inside its 11th-century walls and spent a few hours looking at scientific artefacts. Still, zero regrets on my end.


Want to guess the origin of the museum’s collection? What’s that you say? The Medici? Ding ding ding! This collection actually began in the Stanza della Guardaroba.

This collection was eventually transferred to a room in the Uffizi Gallery (the Stanzino delle Matematiche, or the Mathematics Room), until its ownership went to the Accademia del Cimento (Academy of Experiment, a scientific society founded by students of Galileo), housed in the Palazzo Pitti.

The collection then joined the Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History (today the Specola Museum) and entered the care of the Lorraine Dukes during their reign, with new instruments regularly being added to it.

Eventually, the University of Florence founded the Institute of the History of Science with an adjoining museum, to which it entrusted the now-dubbed Medici-Lorraine collection.

In 2010, and after extensive renovation work that spanned two years, the museum opened with its new name, Museo Galileo.

The Medici Collection spans from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Galileo’s unique artefacts, including the telescope with which he discovered the Galilean moons of Jupiter, are part of this collection. It also boasts thermometers used by the Academia del Cimento and terrestrial and celestial globes.

A highlight is Santucci’s Armillary sphere. Designed by Antonio Santucci, it was built from 1588 to 1593 at the request of Ferdinand I de’ Medici.

It represents the “universal machine” of the world according to principles first conceived by Aristotle and later developed by Ptolemy. A terrestrial globe is placed at its center, impressively depicting territories which were still relatively unknown in Europe at the time.

The Lorraine Collection covers the 18th and 19th centuries, and is a testament to the contribution of the Tuscan region to the study of electricity, electromagnetism, and chemistry.

Today, the museum continues to carry out research and documentation in both scientific and technological fields and museology. It has established relationships with various scientific institutions around the world, including the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Foundation, and Harvard University.

The museum also plays host to important temporary exhibitions and publishes historical scientific works and two journals: Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science and Galeliana, the latter of which is solely dedicated to Galileo Galilei’s work.

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