SITE VISIT: A Renaissance Science Feast

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Science  27 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5394, pp. 1607
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5394.1607d

Flying machines, water-drawing bellows, and other inventions from Renaissance scientists and engineers come to life at an Italian Web site run by the keepers of the famed Medici and Lorraine collections of scientific instruments.

The site, from the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, offers a tour of the museum's room on Galileo Galilei that showcases the inventor, scientist, and heretic. Posted are photos of several of Galileo's inventions, from lodestone and clock's pendulum to telescope and lens—as well as a bizarre display of one of his preserved fingers. Hyperlinks take readers to the findings made with each device and add historical context. Visitors can also tool around the exhibit in virtual reality.

Another Web section features the “Mechanical Marvels” of Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporaries, an exhibit now traveling the world. Dozens of da Vinci's plans for flywheels and crankshafts, helicopters, water pumps, and even robots can be viewed, along with anatomical drawings of the human body. Also explained is the architect Brunelleschi's strategic arrangement of bricks for constructing the massive dome of the Florence Cathedral.

Scholarly surfers who read Italian can access the institute's huge bibliography of documents. Another feature is Galileo's “Notes on Motion” (Science, 12 June, p. 1663). And there's more to come: Institute director Paolo Galluzzi says new material starting next February will cover 18th century French chemist Antoine Lavoisier and others.

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