Eye Trouble May Have Affected Galileo's Observations

Scientists want to exhume astronomer
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2009 1:24 PM CST
This undated file image shows an etching of astronomer Galileo Galilei.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Galileo’s vision problems may have distorted some of his findings, Reuters reports. Scientists want to exhume the scientist’s body to determine, through DNA tests, the exact nature of his eye condition. “If we knew exactly what was wrong with his eyes we could use computer models to recreate what he saw in his telescope,” said the director of a Florence museum.

Contrary to popular sentiment, scientists investigating Galileo’s life think his eye problems were caused by a bout of childhood illness, not staring into the sun. One distortion attributed to his intermittent vision problems is his observation that Saturn was oblong in shape—attributed to being unable to differentiate the planet’s gaseous rings from Saturn itself.