A Date with Greatness

Often I'm asked to speak about Galileo to interested audiences, but last week The Tech Museum in San Jose invited me to speak for him--to answer a series of questions about his "personality traits" and "lifestyle preferences" as I imagined Galileo might respond. For example, would he describe himself as "shy and quiet"? Enjoy playing sports or games? Prefer eating meat to eating vegetables?

Put another way, Can an individual who lived centuries ago find a match in today's online social network? I wasn't sure I wanted to put Galileo to that test, but the Museum staff convinced me to think again. They plan a small exhibition about the "scientific formulas based on social science theories" used by dating services to connect people with similar personalities, interests, backgrounds, and values. An accompanying interactive display promising “A Date With Greatness” will allow Museum visitors to take a short quiz that tests their compatibility with characters out of history.

As someone with a longstanding crush on Galileo, I felt confident choosing the personality descriptors that pegged him as "warm," "sympathetic," "adventurous," and "open to new experiences." I was sure he'd like "watching movies, concerts, and plays" (well, concerts and plays), just as much as "making art, music, or new inventions." Asked to list hobbies and other interests, I offered that he loved writing letters and verses, also debating, and playing the lute, although I wasn't sure these qualities would appeal to the middle- and high-school students in the exhibition's target audience. You never know.

The Museum didn't ask for a picture, but I engaged in a little "cyber-stalking" to see what images might be available for their purpose. Galileo counted several well known artists among his acquaintances, a few of whom drew or painted his likeness. Unfortunately, all the portraits depicted him as a bearded old man. Tucked in among these head shots, however, was a lone photo of a genuine stud--a handsome piece of horseflesh also named Galileo.

According to ematings.com, an online matchmaker service for thoroughbreds, 12-year-old Galileo is currently stallion of the week, stallion of the month, and stallion the year.

Looking ahead, I've asked the Tech Museum to consider adding shy, quiet Copernicus to their roster of Greatness Date candidates.