• Siena

    Collection of instruments of Physics

The Section of Physics within the Department of Physical, Earth, and Environmental Sciences houses one of the finest and richest historical collections of scientific instruments of Physics from the University of Siena: some 400 devices, instruments, models in perfect states of conservation, mosty from the 1800s, that stand as a testament to the evolution of the discipline, from the days when it was taught as a subject in study programmes within the Faculty of Medicine to more recent times when it became part of the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical, and Natural Sciences.

            The collection of instruments of Physics was organized from 1990 to 2000, thanks as well to the collaboration from the CUTVAP Centre of Services, which published the inventory in 11 volumes of the series Mater.iali.  Today it is on public display.  The collection includes an electric perpetual pendulum by Zamboni, a horizontal microscope, an optometer and a polarizing microscope by Giovanni Battista Amici, spectrometers, polarimeters, compasses, octants, telescopes, galvanometers and other finely constructed electrical instruments, X-ray tubes, and a beautiful collection of tubes for studying electrical discharges among gases.

University orientation actvities offer the secondary schools of Siena, Arezzo and Grosseto the opportunity to take part in training programmes to explore and understand physical phenomena that range from famous to less famous occurrences.

It is possible for teachers to include groups or entire classes in some programmes that address such themes as light and colour, seeing the invisible, and measuring light, which may be modulated based on the age and previous experience of the students; all programmes include a workshop portion devoted to the qualitative and/or quantitative exploration of the phenomena involved. 

More intensive workshops that include a greater number of meetings inside the laboratory (8 hrs., minimum) are part of the Piano Lauree Scientifiche (Scientific Degree Programme) and are referred to as PLS laboratories.

Programmes may be included in toto or in part within a work-study scheme, subject to prior arrangement with the Orientation Office of the University.

The Museum System of the University of Siena (Sistema Museale dell’Università di SienaSIMUS) is the tangible result of centuries of study and research carried out in and around Siena.  The System constitutes a summa on the evolution of thought, scientific or otherwise, through collections of tools, finds, educational models, memorabilia and archival documents.  Thanks to the passionate commitment of researchers and university staff, museum resources of this sort continue in the present day to provide an effective educational tool to be used in teaching and disseminating knowledge.

Electric perpetual pendulum by Zamboni: donated in 1816 by Ferdinand III, Duke of Etruria, this is the first electric clock, created with a lightweight pendulum that oscillates between two electrodes connected to a “dry-cell battery”. In the case of some exemplars, motion continued without interruption for roughly a century!

Natural armed magnets: natural magnets were often “armed”, that is, harnessed with iron bands arranged in such a way as to increase the power of attraction.

Collection of instruments of Physics (Museum System of the University of Siena)
Università di Siena
Via Roma, 56
53100 Siena
Tel. 0577 234675

For further information:
Vera Montalbano
email: montalbano@unisi.it


from 3rd May

from Monday to Friday, 9am to 2pm (reservations within the day before: https://biglietticollezionefisica.eventbrite.co.uk.)



free admission

For further information on fares, reduced prices and booking, please contact the museum

“In the fiery and concentrated beauty of Siena there is an artificial note that recalls a city perched atop a hill in an old painting. From the fortifications one views the entire city, the white and brown houses, with brown-hued roofs and smooth façades pierced by multiple windows. […] All around reigns the peace of a green world, now sloping down into valleys strewn with red earth and veiled by the gray mist of the olive trees, with cypresses reaching darkly into the sky, now rising into hills”.  (A. Symons, 1907)

In Siena, the flavor, the taste, the view of the city are still the same as those evoked by the words of the English poet who visited and certainly fell in love with the place more than a century ago. Siena sits composedly, perched on its hills.  Move away just a little, and you can take it in all at once, the unmistakable skyline of its elongated silhouette, its walls, the Torre del Mangia and the dome of the Cathedral. And it is not even so different, in certain glimpses, from the way its most beloved painters depicted it in the 1300s and 1400s, from Lorenzetti to Simone Martini, from Sano di Pietro to Vecchietta.

The city’s sensual and harmonious relationship with the landscape that surrounds and protects it is also fundamentally unchanged. The hills, cypresses, red earth and olive trees can be reached on foot by walking out through the ancient gates, or else still inside the city, in the protected and precious green valleys that have remained within the walls.

With its slow, almost dreamlike way of life, Siena should be visited calmly, for it needs to be savoured unhurriedly. Stroll through Siena and let yourself be guided by curiosity.  Slip into the alleys, look for quiet hidden places, explore a museum, a church or a beautiful palazzo.