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Galileo's EyesOne of history’s greatest scientists is Galileo Galilei who’s considered the father of astronomy and physics.

Though we know about his enormous contributions, a few mysteries about Galileo remain to this day. For one, who is buried with him? And what was wrong with his eyes?

Galileo was born in 1564 and had vision problems that led to blindness the last two years of his life.

Scientist studying his handwriting and portraits suspect he had unilateral myopia, uveitis or creeping angle closure glaucoma.

Creeping angle closure glaucoma causes episodes of blurred vision and colored halos that get worse. Unilateral myopia is nearsightedness in one eye and uveitis is an inflammation in the middle layer of the eye.

If Galileo had one of these, it could have influenced his findings. For example, using his telescope, Galileo observed Saturn and concluded it comprises one planet and two satellite moons which would explain the ring like appearance. We now know he was wrong and that Saturn’s ring system is much more complex.

When Galileo died the pope would not allow his body to be buried with his ancestors in the Basilica of Santa Croce.

That’s because Galileo had been convicted of heresy for declaring the earth revolved around the sun. So he was buried instead in the adjacent chapel.

About a century later, Galileo’s bones were finally moved to the Basilica where they lie today. But they’re buried with an unknown woman. Many believe she was the favorite of Galileo’s illegitimate children. It was the subject of a bestselling novel called "Galileo’s Daughter".

Scientists now want permission to exhume Galileo’s bones for DNA testing to determine which eye disease he had. They can also confirm with whom Galileo has been buried for over 360 years.

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For more information…

A summary of the research being done to determine the eye affliction from which Galileo suffered can be read here and here.

An article entitled "Looking Through Galileo's Eyes" was published on Science Daily and describes a team of astronomers who have recreated one of the great scientists' telescopes and are making observations with it. The article also mentions Galileo's eye affliction.
For more information…

To learn about the life and work of Galileo Galilei who was born in 164 and died in 1642 to "The Galileo Project" sponsored by Rice University. There you will find information about his life, his incredible scientific career, his family and other scientists of the time. The web site also provides a context in which to consider the accomplishments of one of history's greatest scientists.

Stanford University also has an excellent web site devoted to Galileo here.

Another great site for information can be found here.


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