Angelo Secchi

Pietro Angelo Secchi (June 18, 1818February 26, 1878) was an Italian astronomer.


Born in Reggio Emilia, Father Angelo Secchi spent his latter years in Rome, where he died in 1878.

He was a pioneer of astronomical spectroscopy along with Joseph von Fraunhofer. At the age of 16, he entered the Jesuit Order, and later, at the age of 32, he became the director of the Vatican Observatory. Through his solar observations, he discovered the existence of solar spicules. He also discovered comet Secchi (C/1853 E1).

He drew one of the early maps of Mars in 1858, in which he called Syrtis Major the "Atlantic Canal". He thus anticipated Schiaparelli's use of the term canali, although Secchi's canals were not the long straight-line Martian canals of Schiaparelli and Lowell.

Of decisive importance for Secchi’s later achievements in the domain of meteorology was his close friendship with the celebrated hydrographer, meteorologist, author oceanographer and astronomer , Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury , the first superintendent of the "U. S. National Observatory" -- later called the United States Naval Observatory, -- who lived and worked in Washington. Secchi meet and studied under Cmdr. M. F. Maury in Washington for two years (1848-49) while Secchi and other Jesuits were refuges from Rome.

To this friendship, through the medium of Angelo Secchi, Italy owed its first acquaintance with the epoch-making discoveries of the great American, whose valuable services in marine meteorology and navigation cannot be overrated.

In later years Secchi dedicated to this friend, “as a token of our mutual friendship”, his work, Sui recenti progressi della Meteorologia (Rome, 1861), and on Maury’s death in 1873 Secchi gave Commander M. F. Maury an enduring memorial in a warm and touching necrology (cf. Bollettino meteorologico del Collegio Romano, X/II, Rome, 1873).

The Secchi crater on the Moon and a crater on Mars are named after him. Secchi also developed an oceanographic instrument, known as a Secchi disk.


* Angelo Secchi, S.J.

* Angelo Secchi - the Catholic Encyclopedia


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