1. Headline
  1. Headline
Image: Galileo's finger
AP
In this image provided by Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze shows a finger attributed to Galileo Galilei. The remains will be put on display at an Italian museum.
updated 11/20/2009 7:13:09 PM ET 2009-11-21T00:13:09

Two fingers and a tooth removed from Galileo Galilei's corpse in a Florentine basilica in the 18th century and given up for lost have been found again and will soon be put on display, an Italian museum director said Friday.

Three fingers, a vertebra and a tooth were removed from the astronomer's body by admirers in 1737, 95 years after his death, as his corpse was being moved from a storage place to a monumental tomb — opposite that of Michelangelo, in Santa Croce Basilica in Florence.

One of the fingers was recovered soon afterward and is now part of the collection of the Museum of the History of Science, in Florence. The vertebra has been kept at the University of Padua, where Galileo taught for years.

But the tooth and two fingers from the scientist's right hand — the thumb and middle finger — were kept by one of the admirers, an Italian marquis, and later enclosed in a container that was passed on from generation to generation in the same family, Paolo Galluzzi, the museum's director, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Teens affected by terrorism find healing, peace at inspiring camp

      Thanks to a very special summer camp, teens who have lost a loved one due to violent extremism or war have a place to find...

    2. Oh. My. Geep. Meet the half goat, half sheep who is all cuteness
    3. 'Hugging my children closer': Reporter home after covering MH17 crash
    4. Chris Pratt is finally a leading man: 5 reasons we're rooting for him
    5. Aloe Blacc reveals inspiration behind 'Wake Me Up'

"But with time, the generations lost knowledge of what was actually inside the container," and the family sold it, Galluzzi said. By 1905, all traces of the relics had disappeared, "leading scholars to hypothesize that these singular specimens had been definitely lost," the museum said in a statement.

The container recently turned up at auction and was purchased by a private collector, intrigued by the contents but not sure they were Galileo's relics.

8 real-life mummiesThe buyer eventually contacted Galluzzi and other Florence culture officials, who used detailed historical documents, as well as documentation from the family that had owned it for so long, to conclude that the fingers and tooth were Galileo's, the museum director said.

The relics were inside an 18th-century blown-glass vase, which in turn was inside a wooden case topped with a wooden bust of Galileo, the museum said.

Galileo, who died in 1642, was condemned by the Vatican for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Church teaching at the time held that the Earth was the center of the universe. In the early 1990s, Pope John Paul II rehabilitated him, saying the church had erred.

The museum will put the fingers and tooth on display next spring.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Keir Simmons Via Instagram

    'Hugging my children closer': Reporter home after covering MH17 crash

    8/1/2014 8:33:03 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T20:33:03
  1. Priscilla Motola

    Oh. My. Geep. Meet the half goat, half sheep who is all cuteness

    8/1/2014 9:05:08 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T21:05:08
  1. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY

    Teens affected by terrorism find healing, peace at inspiring camp

    8/1/2014 9:32:07 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T21:32:07
  1. US scrambles to retrieve Ebola-infected Americans

    Health officials are trying to bring two American patients infected with Ebola virus back from West Africa for treatment.The State Department said it was helping organize the evacuations over the “coming days.”

    8/1/2014 3:47:06 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T15:47:06
  1. Matt York / AP

    Mansion or shack? That's the million-dollar question

    8/1/2014 6:47:36 PM +00:00 2014-08-01T18:47:36