History of Science Museum
Museo Galileo
Museum's plan
The Science of Navigation - Nocturnes and sundial

Since 1930 the seat of the museum is in the old palace, restored several times down the centuries, that takes ist name from ist last owners, the Castellanis. The museum displays a very accurate and important collection of scientific instruments, the proof that interest of Florence in science from the 13th century onwards was as great as its interest in art.

The collection, or at least the oldest core, originates from the interest of the Medici and Lorraine family in natural, physical and mathematical sciences. It is well known that Cosimo I and Francesco de’ Medici encouraged the scientific and artistic researches in the Gran Ducal workshops, although even Ferdinando II and Cardinal Leopoldo promoted and continued, in the 17th century, physics experiments in the full light of Galileo’s method.

During the 17th century, even Francesco and Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine continued this type of collection with the aid of qualified specialists like the abbot Felice Fontana (1730-1805), who was appointed to direct and increase the collection of the new Museum of Physics and Natural History inaugurated in 1775. Most of the instruments displayed come from the workshop of the latter museum and are now exhibited on the second floor of the Museum of History of Science that also comprises the old Medici collection originally displayed at the Uffizi.

The first floor (11 rooms) is dedicated to the Medici core: quadrants, astrolabus, meridianas, dials, compasses, armillary spheres, bussolas, real works of art made by famous Tuscan and European artists. The museum also exhibits the Galileo’s original instruments, the thermometers belonging to the "Accademia del Cimento" (1657-1667), the microscopes and meteorological instruments. The second floor (10 rooms) shows a large number of very interesting and beautiful instruments, mostly belonging to the Lorraine family, used for mechanical, electrostatic and pneumatic applications. Other sections are dedicated to mechanical clocks, sextants, octans, pharmaceutical and chemical apparatus, weights and measures.

The Institute of History of Science, close to the museum, owns a very large and old library with lots of research material that is continuously updated. The Institute publishes an internal review on history of science, "Nuncius", besides carrying out permanent research work on history of science and technique, organising exhibitions and publishing monographical work, catalogues of instruments, etc. The institute also has a photographic laboratory, two restoration laboratories and a modern IT laboratory.


The Medici Collections
Astronomy and Time
The Representation of the World
The Science of Navigation
The Science of Warfare
Galileo’s New World
The Accademia del Cimento: Art and Experimental Science
After Galileo: Exploring The Physical and Biological World
The Lorraine Collections
The Spectacle of Science
Rooms XII and XIII
Teaching and Popularizing Science
The Precision Instrument Industry
Measuring Natural Phenomena
Chemistry and the Public Usefulness of Science
Science at Home

1564 - 1642
Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.
17th century - Galileo Galilei - Brass
This is one of the instruments made by Galileo from 1597 onwards. This instrument, which should not be confused with the reduction compass, is a sophisticated and versatile calculating device. It renders possible several geometrical and arithmetical operations by comparing the sides of similar triangles.
Case of mathematical instruments
Late 17th century
This astrolabe, attributed to Gerard Mercator, contains six tympanums for latitudes 43°deg;, 36°deg;, 39°deg; and 42°deg;, 45°°deg; and 48°deg;, 51°deg; and 108°deg;, and 57°deg; and 60°deg; (corresponding to the regions between North Africa and Sweden); a seventh tympanum carries the geographic mirror for the northern and southern hemispheres. Probable provenance: Robert Dudley bequest to the Medici collections
Table clock
Attributed to Caspar Rauber, Germany c. 1575

Copernican planetarium model to illustrate
terrestrial and lunar revolutions around the sun
Attributed to Charles-François Delamarche, c. 1800


Dial consisting of a disk engraved on both sides. The recto bears markings for the zodiac signs, months, and days. On it rotates a circle divided into 29 parts and carrying two indexes; on this circle is a small rotating disk fitted with a gnomon, a compass, and an index with the French inscription - Ligne de foy - [line of trust]. On this side the instrument could be used either as a sundial or a nocturnal. The verso carries the hour lines and a small tilting gnomon. There is a suspension ring. The inscriptions in French and the word - Pign - engraved on the index suggest the instrument was made by a craftsman named Pineau, on whom we have no information. Probable provenance: Medici collections
Double-case watch
John Ellicott (watch), Georg-Michael Moser (case)
London - c. 1754
Double-case watch
Daniel Quare
London - late 17th century
Horary quadrant

The front of this finely decorated quadrant carries (1) a brass disk with markings for days, months, and zodiac signs, and (2) a moon dial. There is a magnetic compass for orientation. On the back of the instrument are a shadow square, a degree scale, and a sundial with unequal hour lines set for latitude 43°30' (Florence). Made by Stefano Buonsignori, as
indicated by the initials - D.STEP. B.F.F.- [Stefano Buonsignori Florentinus Fecit]. Provenance: Medici collections
Nocturnal and sundial

Disk with folding index arm rotating on a square plate carrying fixed sights for altitudes. The diurnal hours and night hours are marked for several latitudes. There are also markings for the climates. On the back are a nocturnal and sundial, a 90° quadrant with a shadow square, and the sine scale. Made by Georg Zorn, about whom we have no information. Brought to Florence from Germany by Prince Mattias de' Medici in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Astronomical compendium

This astronomical compendium, in the shape of a Missal, carries the coat of arms of the Company of Jesus (IHS). The outer face of the lid bears a lunar dial showing the phases of the moon; the inner face is engraved with the hour lines. Inside, there is a tilting gnomon mounted on a compass (now missing), that ensured the instrument's correct orientation and allowed its use as a dial. The back of the book displays the planetary hours.

Armillary sphere
Astronomical compendium consisting of a box with three compartments. In the first, there is an astrolabe and a lunar calendar. Between the first and second compartment is an hour circle. The second compartment houses a sundial and a magnetic compass for orientation. The third compartment contains the Horae planetarum table and an horary quadrant with a shadow square. The markings are in German.
Solar clock
Pocket Quadrant
Planetary clock by Lorenzo della Volpaia - 1510

Faithful working replica of the planetary clock designed and built by Lorenzo della Volpaia in 1510 to the commission of Lorenzo de' Medici, now lost. The clock's dial was highly innovative in design, allowing the motions of all the planets to be seen at a glance for the first time. It showed the motions of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the phases and age of the Moon, the mean motion and true position of the Sun. It also indicated the time (by striking the hour), the day and the month. The wheelwork, drawn by a single weight, operated with a verge escapement and a regulator ring.
Galileo's telescope
Circle-dividing engine - 1762
Frictional electrical machine with glass disk rubbed by four leather cushions. The prime conductor consists of two brass tubes with spherical ends connected by a cross-tube fitted with an electrode, resting on glass supports; they terminate in jaw-collectors to facilitate the transfer of the charge at both sides of the glass disk. Positive charge is taken from the prime conductor, while negative charge is taken from the hook at the top of the machine.
Water-raising machine
Apparatus to demonstrate
the parabolic trajectory of projectiles
Maker unknown, late 18th century
Isaac Newton
Nicolaus Copernicus
Hidden Italy * Bettina Röhrig * Logebachstr. 5 * D-53639 Königswinter * Germany