Galileo’s Instruments of Discovery

With these various instruments, Galileo Galilei was able to look into space and change our view of the universe.

Galileo Galilei invented the geometric and military compass. It was his first commercial scientific instrument. (Franklin Institute)

Navicula Dial

Galileo navicula dial
(Franklin Institute)

This extremely rare sundial, also known as the navicula de Venetiis, or "little ship of Venice," was named for its boat shape. (This one dates from the 15th century.) It is an example of an altitude dial, which can be used to tell time based on the variation in the sun’s altitude during the day. Another example of an altitude dial from the Medici collection is the astronomical ring dial.


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