Galileo Gazes toward the Heavens: Understanding the Contributions of the Father of Astronomy

USA TODAY, August 2009 | Go to article overview

Galileo Gazes toward the Heavens: Understanding the Contributions of the Father of Astronomy


Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy" explores lithe extraordinary effect that Galileo's work, as well as that of other luminaries during the age of the Medicis, had on science and the world--and features one of only two remaining telescopes owned and built by Galileo.

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The onetime-only exhibition contains more than 100 artifacts that never have been displayed together before, providing a rare opportunity to tell the story of Galileo Galilei and the Medici dynasty. In addition to Galileo's telescope, the exhibition showcases the Father of Astronomy's accomplishments, as well as his relationship to the Medicis, discoveries, and overall impact, not only on astronomy, but modem science.

The fascinating age of the Medicis is explored--an age when the patronage of the ruling Medici Grand Dukes created a burst of scientific knowledge that transformed the course of mankind. This wealthy and powerful Florentine family ruled Italy from the 15th to the 18th century, included two popes and many cardinals, and was known for its unparalleled advocacy and patronage of art and science.

The exhibit sheds light on the union of art, science, and political power that gave rise to Galileo's success. The Medicis were prolific collectors, and the exhibit is highlighted by an eclectic range of scientific instruments, along with an assortment of paintings, prints, and manuscripts from organizations and regions of Italy. Visitors will be able to experience a rich portrait of their accomplishments, not only in astronomy, but in navigation, math, military matters, and early machinery.

As an added feature, a reproduction of the Porter Garden Telescope is on view. The elegant, hand-finished cast bronze replica originally was created in the early 1920s by Russell Porter.

To supplement the exhibition, two self-guided tour options are available to allow visitors to learn more about the exhibit by providing in-depth details about each artifact. Students from the Science Leadership Academy, a small, progressive magnet high school in the Philadelphia School District, were given the opportunity to write and develop the podcast as part of their Galileo curriculum. …

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