Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Return of a Genius

A thumb and forefinger as well as a tooth have been found and proven to belong to the famous physicist, astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher of the Scientific Revolution, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). At an auction, there was a wooden box and inside there was an 18th century blown glass container with the two fingers and a tooth contained inside which were noticed by a collector. These were removed from the genius’ body when he was being moved from an unconsecrated grave to a Florentine church, the Santa Croce, in 1737, nearly 100 years after his death. During the ceremony when Galileo was being dug up and about to be transferred, Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti took out a knife and removed the fingers and tooth as soon as the coffin lid was raised. Galileo’s middle finger and vertebra were also removed on this occasion and can now be viewed on display at the Galluzzi museum located in Florence. Galileo is well known for his observations of solar spots, his invention of the thermometer, and the modification of and studies made with the telescope. He used the telescope to come to the conclusion that the Earth revolves around the sun. However, at the time such radical ideas were seen to threaten the power of the church, and this great thinker was convicted of heresy and spent the last nine years of his life on house arrest. After they had been removed from the body, the fingers and tooth traded hands through various owners and eventually disappeared from view completely about a century ago, only to be discovered again recently. Galileo was parted from his fingers under the reason that he had created and unearthed many ideas with them in his life and they therefore needed to be kept as symbolic representations of his great works. The question is whether it is morally ethical to separate a person from their body parts and put them on display after their death.

Yasmine B.
Per. 5

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