Galileo's observations 'affected by' degenerative eyes

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Hailed as a genius and the father of astronomy, researchers believe Galileo Galilei could have been even more accurate in his work had he not been suffering from a genetic disease which eventually left him blind.

They want to extract DNA samples from his remains, which are kept in a tomb in Florence's Santa Croce Basilica.

"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 Paolo Galluzzi, director of Florence's Institute and Museum of the History of Science.

"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 Mr Galluzzi. "If we were able to see what he saw that would be extraordinary." The United Nations has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy in tribute to the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations.

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