Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/April 1878/Sketch of Professor Secchi

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PSM V12 D660 P Angelo Secchi.jpg



THIS distinguished Italian physicist and astronomer died on the 26th of February. Pietro Angelo Secchi was born in Reggio, in Emilia, July 29, 1818. He was educated for the Church, and joined the order of the Jesuits November 3, 1833. He studied mathematics, physics, and astronomy, under Padre de Vico, and taught physics in the college of Loreto from 1841 to 1843. In 1844 he began his course of theology in the Roman College, and in 1848 came to the United States, and pursued his theological studies, at the same time teaching physics and mathematics, in the Georgetown College, District of Columbia. There he remained until 1850, when he was recalled to Rome.

He now entered upon his public career as an astronomer and physicist. He was appointed Director of the Observatory of the Roman College, reconstructed it on a new site and plan, invented and perfected an improved system of meteorological observation, published a monthly bulletin, which was continued until 1873, and invented and constructed a meteorograph, which was much admired by savants at the Paris Exhibition of 1867.

Prof. Secchi was commissioned by Pope Pius IX. to complete the trigonometrical survey of the Papal States, begun by Boscovitch in 1851, and to rectify the measurements already made of the meridional arc. He also superintended and executed successfully a commission to bring a supply of water to Rome from Frosinone, forty-eight miles distant. After the closing of the Roman College, and the expulsion of the Jesuits (1870-73), Prof. Secchi was allowed to retain his post, and continued to lecture on astronomy in the ecclesiastical schools at Rome. In 1875 he was sent by the Italian Government on a scientific mission to Sicily.

Prof. Secchi was a man of great industry, and cultivated the astronomical field assiduously. The results of his scientific labors will be found chronicled in the periodicals of Italy, France, Germany, and England, and the "Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge" in this country. But he is especially known in the scientific world for his researches and discoveries in spectroscopic analysis, and in solar and stellar physics. Among the most important of these are his "Spectrum Observations on the Rotation of the Sun," published in 1870. The same year he printed a large work on the sun, which was highly regarded, and immediately translated into French and German. His last considerable publication is a popular book on "The Stars," contributed to the Italian branch of the "International Scientific Series."