Galileo Thermometer: How They Work and the 5 Best to Buy

galileo thermometer

A Galileo Thermometer is a glass tube filled with liquid, typically ethanol, and has a series of weights attached to it. As the temperature changes, the liquid expands or contracts, which moves the weights up or down the tube.

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While the instrument bears the name of the great Italian physicist Galileo Galilei, he did not invent the thermometer itself. However, the physical principles he discovered some four centuries ago make the Galileo thermometer a reasonably accurate measurement of temperature compared to modern temperature sensors.

Who invented the galileo thermometer?

Galileo thermometers are named after the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei. However, the instrument itself was created by researchers at the Accademia del Cimento of Florence sometime in the mid-1600s. One of the researchers on the team, Torricelli, worked with Galileo on research surrounding the concepts of the thermometer.

As the temperature of the liquid changes, the weighted spheres begin to move. While Galileo thermometers are not particularly accurate, they are still often used as decorative items.

Galileo Thermoscope - How it works

How galileo thermometers work

Galileo thermometers are unique devices that use the principles of both buoyancy and density to measure temperature. The thermometer consists of a glass container filled with a clear liquid and several spheres with weights of different densities. The weighted spheres are free to move up and down the glass container, and each is labeled with a different temperature.

As the temperature of the liquid changes, the metal balls either float or sink until they reach a position where the liquid has the same density as the metal ball. The temperature is read on the medallion of the lowest sphere.

Best Galileo Thermometers

Our Pick - Galileo Thermometers
Wind & Weather Galileo Thermometer
$43.95
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All prices are in USD. International users will be directed to their local retailer if available. We may receive a small commission as a result on clicks on the above links. Last Updated:
10/01/2022 12:26 am GMT

Wind and Weather have become a name synonymous with quality traditional weather instruments, and its 20″ tall Galileo Thermometer is no different. However, you’ll need an open spot to place this one, given its height. But you’ll be able to read this one from a distance.

Lily's Home Round Galileo Thermometer
$49.95
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All prices are in USD. International users will be directed to their local retailer if available. We may receive a small commission as a result on clicks on the above links. Last Updated:
10/01/2022 03:30 am GMT

We like Lily’s Round Galileo Thermometer just because it’s different. Most thermometers you’ll see are long cylindrical tubes. Here, Lily has placed the Galileo thermometer inside a globe-like stand, which takes up less room. Reviews are pretty solid too, and it doesn’t seem to operate any less accurate than a traditional Galileo thermometer.

AcuRite Galileo Thermometer with Glass Globe Barometer
$47.18 $43.09
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All prices are in USD. International users will be directed to their local retailer if available. We may receive a small commission as a result on clicks on the above links. Last Updated:
09/30/2022 08:06 pm GMT
galileo thermometer with blue skyPhoto: Tiffany Means - stock.adobe.com

The Fitzroy Storm Glass

The Fitzroy Storm Glass is a weather forecasting tool used by sailors in the 19th century. The glass is filled with a mixture of water and chemicals, and the crystals that form within the glass are said to be able to predict the weather. According to legend, if the crystals are clear, the weather will be fair. If they are cloudy, then it will be rainy. If they are clear, then the weather is fair. While the scientific evidence for this claim is scant, many people still believe in the power of the Fitzroy Storm Glass. As a result, it has become a popular decoration in homes and offices.

Constantinople Storm Glass Weather Predictor
$60.00 $45.00
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All prices are in USD. International users will be directed to their local retailer if available. We may receive a small commission as a result on clicks on the above links. Last Updated:
10/01/2022 03:40 am GMT

The Constantinople Storm glass is an excellent gift for weather geeks. With a simple yet elegant design, the Constantinople Storm Glass is a great decorative piece for the home that you can place anywhere.

More than a piece of home decor, the Constantinople Storm Glass is a “weather instrument” that predicts weather changes. The chemical mixture inside the glass experiences changes in crystallization based on weather conditions. For more precise weather forecasting, the weather glass should be placed near a window, outdoors, or in areas exposed to fresh air. However, there’s no objective evidence it works, but it’s a great conversation piece.

Lily's Home Desktop Weather Station with Galileo Thermometer and Fitzroy Storm Glass
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Finally, we’d recommend Lily once again if you’re looking for a combination of the storm glass and a Galileo thermometer. This particular model features a sturdy cherry-finished wood case that would look great in any office.

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Ed Oswald

Ed Oswald has nearly two decades of experience in technology and science journalism, and specializes in weather stations and smart home technology. He's written for Digital Trends, PC World, and TechHive. His work has also appeared in the New York Times. When he isn't writing about gadgets, he enjoys chasing severe weather and winter storms.

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