Museo Galileo: 1930-2010 : Illustrious Visitors: 1931-1953

Illustrious Visitors: 1931-1953

Opening to the public on April 25, 1931, the Museo Nazionale di Storia delle Scienze appeared from the start an institution that would attract a new class of visitors, strongly motivated by interest in and curiosity about an incomparable heritage. Evincing the relationship between art and science, the heart of the Museum offered a new type of collection. In those same years, museums of science and technology had sprung up all over Europe, emphasizing the cultural value of contemporary science. By contrast, the vocation of the Florentine museum was that of showcasing its objects in their historical context, in a display more similar to the Galleria degli Uffizi than to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

In the first decades visitors were not numerous, but the international dimension of the history of science and the exceptional rarity of the Museum’s collections immediately attracted the attention of such outstanding figures as Niels Bohr (1933), Jean Pelseneer (1933), Max Neuburger (1933), Sebastiano Timpanaro Senior (1933), Leonardo Olschki (1936), Rita Brunetti (1936), Bern Dibner (1937), Simone Weil (1938), Hans Reichenbach (1939), Wolfgang Pauli (1945), Max Born (1945), Gerald Holton (1951), Andrei Gromyko (1951), Ugo Amaldi Jr. (1952), Alexandre Koyré (1953), and Lorenzo Milani (1953).

In the post-war years, and especially after the completion of the new layout in the early 1950s, the number of visitors, many of them foreigners, rapidly increased, transforming the Museum from an exclusive niche to an avant-garde institution for divulging scientific culture and safeguarding ancient scientific instruments. Records of visitors were suspended in 1953 and resumed only in 1969, when mass tourism had become a reality even for the Museo di Storia della Scienza.