Florence has been an important scientific centre for centuries, notably during the Renaissance with scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci.
Florentines were one of the driving forces behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his "enterprise" to the Spanish monarchs, and which he used on his first voyage. Mercator's "Projection" is a refined version of Toscanelli's – taking into account the Americas, of which the Florentine was, obviously, ignorant.
Gallileo and other scientists pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy, anatomy, and so on. Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, and many others laid the groundwork for our understanding of political science.