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 The Museum of the History of Science 


Address: Piazza dei Giudici, 1
This museum is found in the old palace whose name comes from its last owners, the Castellani; it was begun in the twelfth century although its appearance is of the fourteenth with some sixteenth century alterations. It was restored in the middle of the last century. In 1929 it became the Science Museum after being the headquarters of the Giudici di Ruota and for several decades the National Library. The Science Museum houses an important collection of scientific instruments in a carefully arranged layout, the proof that Florence's interest in science from the thirteenth century onwards was as great as its interest in art.
 
It was the interest of the Medici and Lorraine families in the natural sciences, physics and mathematics which prompted them to collect precious and visually beautiful scientific instruments along with paintings and other objects of art and natural curiosities; this provided the nucleus for this museum. As is well-known, Cosimo I and Francesco encouraged the scientific and artistic researches carried out in the Grand Ducal workshops, but other members of the Medici family in the seventeenth century (notably Ferdinando II and Cardinal Leopoldo) protected and personally followed physics experiments in the full light of Galileo's method.
 
Francesco and Leopoldo of Lorraine also continued this type of collecting in the eighteenth century, with the aid of qualified specialists. In particular the abate Felice Fontana (1730-1805) strengthened the Museum of Physics and Natural Sciences and its adjoining laboratory. It was from the latter that most of the instruments in the museum today originated, although the museum was then in the Pitti Palace. During the eighteenth century the instruments formerly in the Uffizi also went there.
 
The first floor (11 rooms) is dedicated to the medical nucleus: quadrants, astrolabus, meridianas, dials, compasses, armillary spheres, bussolas, real works of art made by the famous Tuscan and European artists. Galileo's original instruments are also on show, the thermometres belonging to the Accademia del Cimento (1657-1667), the microscopes and the meterological instruments. The second floor (10 stairs) displays a large number of equipment of great interest and beauty, mostly Lorrainese, belonging to mechanics, electrostatics, pneumatology. Other sections are set aside to mechanical clocks, sextants, octants, pharmaceutical and chemical apparatus, weights and measures. In the section dedicated to medicine there are displayed suggestaive obstetrical models in wax and terracotta, which show a real catalogue of anomolous postions of the fetus in the matrix, as well as the collection of surgical instruments of Giovanni Alessandro Brambilla.
 
The large covered roof-terrace on the third floor houses temporary exhibitions, congresses and international gatherings. The Institute has a large antique library for research, continually updated, and specialized in the history of Science. It carries out permanent research on the history of Science and Technology, with particular attention being paid to the recognition and cataloguing of the primary sources. It organizes exhibitions and publishes monographical works, catalogues of instruments, etc. In short it carries out an intense didactic activity, thanks also to the Planetarium fitted out on the ground floor. At the Institute and National Museum of History of Science operate a photographic laboratory and two restoration laboratories.


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