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Galileo-Style Compound Microscope

A significant amount of controversy swirls around this unsigned brass Italian compound microscope and a smaller sister instrument that are housed at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy. Some claim they were built by Galileo Galilei and handed down through the centuries, but others dismiss them as nineteenth-century replicas due to their craftsmanship and brass materials.

Three curved legs dovetail into a support collar for the body of this instrument, which is turned from a single, solid brass casting. The design does not feature any mirrors and the sole source of illumination for the microscope is ambient light. To focus an object, the instrument's nosepiece screws into the support collar, while turning the upper barrel into the lower barrel of the device varies the distance between lenses. However, despite the fact that this Galileo-style microscope and its sister instrument are designed to carry an objective and ocular, neither bears optics. Some historians believe that this is another indication that both are merely replicas, even though they were presented as works of Galileo in an 1876 South Kensington, England exhibition.


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