Going blind, Galileo pioneered astronomy; scientists want to study his DNA

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ROME -– Italian scientists are trying to get Galileo's DNA in order to figure out how the astronomer forged groundbreaking theories on the universe while gradually becoming blind, a historian said Monday.

Scientists at Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science want to exhume the body of 17th Century astronomer Galileo Galilei to find out exactly what he could see through his telescope.

The Italian astronomer -- who built on the work of predecessor Nicolaus Copernicus to develop modern astronomy with the sun as the centre of the universe -- had a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind.

"If we succeed, thanks to DNA, in understanding how this disease distorted his sight, it could bring about important discoveries for the history of science," said the institute's director, Paolo Galluzzi.

"We could explain certain mistakes that Galileo made: why he described the planet Saturn as having 'lateral ears' rather than having seen it encircled by rings for example," said Galluzzi.

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