Seven Interesting Exhibition Items at the Museo Galileo

As you’re walking along the Arno on the Duomo side at night, you may notice a strange pillar with a clear turquoise base and zodiac symbols glowing in the same color on the ground. They are part of a giant sundial built in 2007, according to Luise Schnabel and Filippo Camerota’s design. Samantha, Jen (a new friend we made), and I visited the museum on Sunday. We had a great experience looking at the various scientific instruments. I’ll show you seven intriguing exhibition objects.


This 18th century brass and iron contraption with wheels measures friction and wear. Tribometers measure a material’s friction, wear, adhesion, hardness, and other contact properties. [1]

virginia museo galileo

Plane astrolabe

German Hans Dom made this astrolabe in 1483. Astronomers and navigators used this instrument invented by the Ancient Greeks to determine longitude, latitude, and time of day. [2]

virginia museo galileo Astrolabe

Apparatus to demonstrate isochronism of falls along a spiral

This rare apparatus is from the first half of the 18th century and demonstrates Galileo’s law of falling bodies along an inclined plane. The only other known example is at the University of Padua. [3]

virginia museo galileo isochronism apparatus

Simple aquatic microscope

This strangely shaped microscope is from the second half of the 18th century. Naturalists used this instrument to observe organisms in an aquarium. The arm can be adjusted and brought close. [4]

virginia museo galileo aquatic microscope

Peter Leopold’s chemistry cabinet

Peter Leopold was the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1765 to 1790 [5], and he performed experiments for fun in his laboratory in the Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale of Florence [6]. Some of the things in Leopold’s cabinet are two glass jars, a wooden inkpot, a wooden egg with removable lid, a detachable small melting oven, a alcohol stove, a porphyry slab to prepare pills, a agate mortar with egg-shaped pestle, and two ivory mortars with pestles. Imagine having this in your lab classrooms. How cool would that be?!

virginia museo galileo chemistry cabinet

Alembic domes

These 18th century long-spouted domes are used for distillation, a process that uses heat and condensation to separate gas or vapor from liquids or solids. [7]

virginia museo galileo alembic domes

“Monesiglio” bottles

Don’t mistaken these for water coolers! Giuseppe Angelo Saluzzo, the Count of Monesiglio, invented these 18th century bottles to study carbon dioxide. [8]

virginia museo galileo monesiglio bottles

I highly recommend this museum to lovers of science. It’s very interesting to see historical versions of gadgets scientists use today. Some elements of the objects may catch your eye and can be sources of inspiration for creative works:

  • Unusual shapes, like the “Monesiglio” bottles or the aquatic microscope
  • Curved edges, like on the astrolabe and apparatus to demonstrate isochronism
  • Shiny surfaces, like on the astrolabe or the reflected light on the alembic domes and “Monesiglio” bottles

When you visit museums, what are you usually drawn to? I’d love to know!

Crafting into the sunset,

For more information, visit the Museo Galileo website
Address: Piazza dei Giudici 1, 50122 Florence, Italy
Admission: 9 euros

If you’re interested in studying abroad, check out the Queens College Education Abroad office website.

Information about exhibition objects was sourced from their corresponding exhibition labels. Additional information was found at the following websites:

  1. The Tribology Laboratory at Lehigh University
  2. At Home Astronomy at University of California, Berkley. The link leads to an activity that shows you can make your own astrolabe!
  3. Apparatus to Demonstrate Isochronism Falls Along a Spiral catalogue entry on the Museo Galileo website
  4. Aquatic Microscope catalogue entry on the Museo Galileo website
  5. Chemistry Cabinet catalogue entry on the Museo Galileo website
  6. Peter Leopold biography entry on the Museo Galileo website
  7. Alemic Dome glossary entry at University of Pennsylvannia
  8. ”Monesiglio” Bottle catalogue entry on the Museo Galileo website

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