The Resurrection of Galileo



Vincenzo Viviani and Giovanni Battista
de Nelli strove to save Galileo’s legacy :
Viviani keeping all of his master’s papers
in a huge closet along one wall
of his house in Florence
rewriting many letters
excising references to Copernicus
and blasphemous heliocentricity.

When he died his nephew inherited the house
and kept the papers, but when he died,
his nephew dumped them all into a bin
to make room for his linen bedclothes
and sold them off in bundles
to merchants for wrapping paper:
gravitational theory to take home sugar,
parabolic arcs of projectiles for some pecorino.

In 1750 Nelli bought some mortadella
from a local butcher for a picnic,
and when he unwrapped it, he found
a paper in Galileo’s handwriting
which he recognized on the spot.
He rushed back to the shop,
bought up the entire lot,
and spent the remaining years of his life
trying to put them all back together again.


Featured Art: Lire 2000 Galileo Galilei, by OneArmedMan via Wikimedia Commons


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