Museo Galileo, the history of science museum in Florence
The Museo Galileo in Florence is one of the most interesting scientific museums in all of Tuscany. Called the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza until a few years ago, in 2010 it was named after the great scientist Galileo, taking the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Sidereus Nuncius, the work in which Galileo Galilei divulged his discoveries.
The museum is located in the central Piazza dei Giudici, inside the historic Palazzo Castellani, a stone’s throw from the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio. Perfect for a visit suitable for the whole family, the Galileo Museum houses a very important collection of scientific instruments that encompasses the collections of the Medici and Lorraine Grand Dukes.
History of the collection
The origin of the collection dates back to the sixteenth century, when Cosimo I de’ Medici began to collect the first instruments in Palazzo Vecchio. In the seventeenth century the Grand Duke Ferdinando I moved the collection to the Uffizi Gallery. When instruments from the Accademia del Cimento were added to the Medici collection a few years later, the collection was moved to Palazzo Pitti. In 1775 the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo di Lorena founded the Reale Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale in Palazzo Torrigiani and transferred the entire collection, which over time had been further enriched with new instruments. To find the museum in the current location of Palazzo Castellani, it was necessary to arrive in 1930 when the various collections, which after the unification of Italy had been assigned to various universities, were reunited.
Visit to the Galileo Museum
The Museum is made up of 18 thematic rooms, a multimedia laboratory and a library. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Museo Galileo in Florence organizes temporary exhibitions with the aim of promoting the dissemination of scientific culture. In addition to the classic museum activity, the Museo Galileo carries out constant research and scientific and technological documentation also in collaboration with other important international institutes, such as the Royal Academy of Sciences of Sweden and Harvard University.
The museum itinerary takes us on a journey through the history of scientific research that has its roots in the Renaissance. And in fact the first room is dedicated to the Medici collection, begun by Cosimo I and continued by his successors such as Francesco I, Ferdinando I and Ferdinando II, the founding founder of the Accademia Medicea Sperimentale from which the Accademia del Cimento later originated, the first scientific society of an experimental nature in Europe.
The second room focuses on astronomy and the measurement of time. The following rooms are dedicated instead to the representation of the world; in the third room we find the magnificent Armillary Sphere, built between 1588 and 1593 by Antonio Santucci.
We pass from the 5th room “Science and the sea” and 6th room “The science of war”, to arrive at the seventh room which is dedicated to Galileo Galilei. Here are shown the great discoveries of the scientist who, with his observations, made an incredible contribution to the study and understanding of the universe.
The eighth room is on the Accademia del Cimento while in the following rooms we move on to science after Galileo and to the Lorraine collections.
The journey through the history of science continues in a series of rooms where we find instruments dedicated to every type of study and measurement. We have now come to the eighteenth century and to devices such as pneumatic pumps, solar microscopes, machines for the study of shocks and in general devices relating to the so-called “spectacularization” of science, which then also opened up to non-specialist classes.
Mechanics, optics, meteorology, hydraulics, pneumatics and electromagnetism are the founding nuclei of the research which, through a large number of precision instruments, reaches up to the nineteenth century; here the exhibition ends with the rooms dedicated to chemistry and “science at home”.
Information on timetables, tickets and guided tours of the Galileo Museum
The Galileo Museum is located in Piazza dei Giudici 1 in Florence.
The museum is open every day from Monday to Sunday from 9.30 to 19.30. The only days of closure are January 1st and December 25th.
The full ticket costs 10 euros; the reduced costs 6 euros, 5 euros for schools. Children up to 6 years enter for free; families can buy a 24 euro cumulative ticket which gives access to 2 adults and 2 children.
The Museo Galileo offers a valid guided tour service aimed at groups up to a maximum of 15 people.
For more information on museum opening times and tickets, or to book a guided tour, I recommend you visit the official website of the Galileo Museum, where you will also find a virtual tour, among other things.