Galileo’s Finger

Galileo's Finger

It is true. I went to Florence without seeing the David. I’m a dope. Then again, my alternative proved rather intriguing: I saw Galileo’s right hand middle finger. Don’t ask me why it was even possible to see Galileo’s right hand middle finger, but I did. There it was, a bony remnant poised on a marble pedestal, encased in a glass dome and surrounded by gilded inscriptions—a strange monument to the man who proved heliocentrism.

At the time I was studying the history of science. Thus, when the opportunity came up to visit the Museum of the History of Science, I was obliged to go. Besides, it apparently cost nine Euros to see the David. It only cost five to see the finger. Tradeoffs. (I haven’t yet taken Logic).

The museum overflowed with beakers and scales of all shapes and sizes. There was even a beaker in the shape of a crab. Globes from all over the world filled the interior of one room while telescopes filled the entirety of another. I diligently began to write down all of the words I didn’t recognize. I still have yet to Wikipedia the following: hodometer, diptych dials, polyhedrals, the efficacy of nocturnals, and horary disks and quadrants.

After passing through a hall of compasses, I found myself in a room that was relatively sparse compared to some of the others. Looking to one side, I got immediately excited: there, big as life, were Galileo’s actual telescopes. Releasing my nerd-hood, I started frantically photographing.

Satisfied, I turned around. Then I saw it. No way, I thought. I went to investigate. “The Right Hand Middle Finger of Galileo Galilei” said the plaque. I was flabbergasted. Galileo is eternally flipping the bird.

After the shock of seeing the nasty, crusted remains of what I’m sure was once a very useful appendage for the astronomer, the rest of the museum, needless to say, proved anticlimactic.

In retrospect, I learned two things that day. Firstly, even poor decisions can have fascinating outcomes. Secondly, there will always be people loonier than I am.


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