Museo Galileo: 1930-2010 : The early years: 1922-1927

The early years: 1922-1927

On the occasion of the second National Congress of the History of Medical and Natural Sciences, held at Bologna in October 1922, Andrea Corsini, historian of medicine, made a speech calling attention for the first time to the cultural value of Italy’s scientific heritage. Corsini proposed concrete steps to be taken to promote this heritage. His proposals were unanimously accepted by the Congress and, a few months later, transposed into ministerial provisions sponsored by Senator Luigi Rava.

On May 3, 1923, this successful initiative culminated in the founding in Florence of the “Gruppo per la tutela del patrimonio scientifico nazionale” (Group for the Protection of the National Scientific Heritage), with the physicist and senator Antonio Garbasso as president. Thanks to the influential support of Garbasso and Prince Piero Ginori Conti, Corsini’s active commitment won rapid recognition, summarized in a long article by Ugo Ojetti, printed in the Corriere della Sera (13/3/1924), entitled Per salvare I cimeli della scienza italiana [To save the treasures of Italian science].

On March 4, 1925, at the request of the Group, the University of Florence engaged to rearrange the scientific collections housed at the Specola and to open the Museum of Ancient Instruments to the public.

Subsequent to these initiatives, on May 7, 1925, the Istituto di Storia delle Scienze della R. Università di Firenze (Royal University of Florence Institute of the History of Science), was inaugurated. With Corsini as its director, it occupied a room at the Faculty of Medicine in Via degli Alfani. The Institute, first of its kind in Italy, combined the objective of promoting the history of science with a new approach to the collecting and showcasing of memorabilia, instruments, iconography and documents related to science in Italy.

By 1927 the Institute, thanks to loans from the University of Florence, possessed a first modest core collection of books and instruments. By Royal Decree, it was granted the status of “Ente morale”, or foundation. It was now autonomous, and with the generous patronage of Ginori Conti, who had become its president, its sphere of influence began to expand.