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Officine Galileo

In 1862, astronomers Giovanni Battista Amici and Giovanni Battista Donati adhered to the project to found a company for the production of precision instruments in Florence. Already in 1831, Amici brought skilled optics workmen to Florence form Modena and created, near the Specola, an optical-mechanical workshop connected to the Florentine Observatory adjoining the Museum of Physics and Natural History.

The project came to a standstill with the death of Amici (1863). Donati did not give up, however, and with the help of Angelo Vegni, applied to the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce for authorisation to organise a workshop in the little-used workshop of the Technical Institute of Florence, for the construction of precision instruments and to train technicians. Donati and Vegni availed themselves of the collaboration of mechanic Giuseppe Poggiali. So was born Officine Galileo which, for a brief period, was hosted in the Technical Institute, and around 1870 transferred to the suburban quarter of Le Cure. In 1873, the factory had some forty workmen. In the first decades of activity, the Officine built precision optical and mechanical material, mainly for the Observatory at Arcetri.

At Donati’s death (1873), factory management was taken over by Innocenzo Golfarelli who expanded the range of instruments produced. The production of physics and didactic instruments, geodetic apparatuses and scales was joined by that of dynamos, regulators for arc lamps and other electrical apparatuses. In 1881, optical instruments were made for the Italian and Japanese navies; towards the end of the century, several optical apparatuses for topographic surveying by the Istituto Geografico Militare were built.

In 1896, the Company was purchased by engineer Giulio Martinez who imparted a breakthrough to the company. In fact, the production of periscopes, floodlights and rangefinders for the Ministry of the Navy began. The production of didactic and laboratory instruments took second place with respect to industrial instruments, and totally ceased in the course of the 20th century. In the field of astronomical optics, Officine Galileo made extremely powerful telescopes for the Observatory of Asiago and for the Observatory of Merate. Today, Officine Galileo is particularly involved in optical instruments for military use and in space technology, and has become one of the most important firms in these sectors, both nationally and internationally.

Also worthy of mention is the Company Library which conserves some 4800 texts and many periodicals dealing with mechanics, optics, vacuum technology, military engineering and computer science.


Texts by Paolo Brenni

English translation by Victor Beard

Last update 09/gen/2008