A Reproduction of Galileo's Vertebra held at the University of Padua


On 2 August 1823, the University of Padua received the fifth lumbar vertebra of Galileo Galilei as a gift donated by Domenico Thiene.

The history behind those in possession of this relic is quite long. Entombed in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence after his death on 8 January 1642 and disinterred about a century later on 12 March 1737, Galileo’s final resting place lies within a mausoleum dedicated to him in the same basilica.

Appointed by Grand Duke Gian Gastone de' Medici, a commission comprised of Antonio Cocchi (physician and naturalist), Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti (botanist and naturalist), Giovanni Vincenzo Capponi (poet and scholar), Anton Francesco Gori (Provost of the Baptistery of San Giovanni) and the Giovanni Camillo di Pasquale di Piero Piombanti (notary) moved Galileo's body. Upon revealing Galileo’s skeleton, members of the commission removed portions of his corpse as relics of the scientist.  After several exchanges, the vertebra reached Domenico Thiene in 1820, who subsequently donated it to the University of Padua during the rectorship of Antonio Meneghelli.

Today, surveying high-density 3D points and micrometric resolutions have made it possible to define the three-dimensional morphological and morphometric characteristics of Galileo's vertebra thanks to the structured light scanner supplied by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the University of Padua.

The model optimized the information contained within it and converted it into instructions for the 3D printing machine to produce. To minimize the error, a second copy was printed and used for colour and proofs. This phase was made possible thanks to the photographic campaign carried out during the survey by replicating the original colour of the bone fragment and repeating the complicated sequence that makes up the ligature of the original vertebra.