Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did Galileo Really Have a Dog?

This is a question children ask me over and over when I visit their classrooms to talk about the great scientist/inventor/- musician/astronomer/all-around Renaissance man Galileo Galilei. You see, there is a picture of Galileo with his dog "Luna" on the cover of my book, Galileo's Journal, which was published in 2006. Putting Luna there was not a frivolous decision, I can assure you. Galileo loved nature and, seemed to have a fondness for animals. In letters to him written by his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, from her cloistered convent, there is communication about a small donkey kept on his property, as well as doves. And research showed that certain types of dogs were pets in Italian households during Galileo's lifetime. So we put Luna in the book and readers really connected with her. I always assure students that, while I don't know for sure whether he had a dog, Galileo was a gregarious sort of guy and liked companionship. So he might have had a dog like Luna. Kids seem to be okay with this reply.