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Galileo’s Lost Tooth And Fingers Found

November 21, 2009

The tooth, thumb and finger of the much celebrated Italian scientist Galileo Galilei have been discovered by an art collector, Italy’s History of Science Museum announced on Friday.

Scientists and historians took these parts, along with another finger and a vertebrae, during a burial ceremony in 1642, nearly a century after his death, reported Reuters.

For those 95 years after his death, church authorities refused to allow Galileo to be buried in consecrated ground because his findings contradicted the traditional teachings of the Catholic church.

The science historian responsible for removing the parts, Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti, wrote about the ceremony and “confessed he had found it hard to resist the temptation to take away the skull which had housed such extraordinary genius,” the museum said.

The relics resurfaced after being passed from one collector to another before finally being lost in 1905, while the other finger and the vertebrae have been kept mummified in museums in Florence and Padue since 1737.

“All the organic material extracted from the corpse has therefore now been identified and is conserved in responsible hands,” the museum said in a statement.

“On the basis of considerable historical documentation, there are no doubts about the authenticity of the items,” it added.

The museum will be showcasing the newly-found parts in 2010, after the museum finishes renovation work and changes its name to the Galileo museum.

Galileo was born in Pisa in 1564, and played a key role in the 17th century Scientific Revolution. He was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher whose achievements like improvements to the telescope and other astronomical observations have won him the impressive title of the Father of Modern Science.

The museum said that the missing fingers and tooth were purchased by an anonymous collector at a recent auction, where they were being sold as unidentified artifacts contained in an 17th century wooden case.

Galileo is now buried in Florence’s Santa Croce church, across from the tomb of Michelangelo.

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