Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ruder Boškovic and the Brera Observatory


In the mid 18th century both theoretical and practical astronomy were cultivated in Milan by Barnabites and Jesuits. In 1763 Boscovich was appointed to the chair of mathematics of the University of Pavia in the Duchy of Milan, and the following year he designed an observatory for the Jesuit Collegium of Brera. The Specola was built in 1765 and it became quickly one of the main European observatories. We discuss the relation between Boscovich and Brera in the framework of a short biography. An account is given of the initial research activity in the Specola, of the departure of Boscovich from Milan in 1773 and his coming back just before his death

"Boscovich and the Brera Observatory" by E. Antonello

French Polytechnique...

The Brera Observatory was built in 1765 as an extension of the Brera palace under the direction of the jesuite Giuseppe Ruggero Boscovich (1711-1787), who was at the time a professor of mathematics at University of Pavia. By the first decade of the XIX century the Observatory had gained international fame and importance: in 1781 Messier informed the Observatory about a new celestial body recently discovered by William Herschel, who had described it as a curious nebulous star or a comet: he had actually discovered the planet Uranus. The astronomers of Brera Observatory immediately set out to calculate the orbit, and although the results were far from accurate, they realized that the new ``comet" had a circular orbit. The calculations for the orbit made by the Observatory were considered as official up to five years later, when it was realized that the new comet was in fact a planet.

By 1810, the Observatory had seven full-time staff members, three main astronomers, three allievi (pupils), and one machinery manager. The financial position of the Allievi was rather ambiguous: according to the law, every Italian observatory had to have three Allievi. These had to work for free for two years before they started to receive a salary. In 1813 the First Astronomer was Barnaba Oriani (1752-1832), the Second Astronomer was Angelo de Cesaris (1749-1832) and the Third Astronomer was Francesco Carlini (1783-1862). The Pupils were Carlo Brioschi, who became in 1819 the director of the Observatory of Naples, Giovanni Santini, who became in 1817 the director of the Observatory of Padua, and Giovanni Plana, who became in 1813 the director of the Observatory of Turin. After Plana left, his place was taken for a very short time by Brugnatelligif, and when the latter left, by Mossotti, who took on the job on 18 June 1813.

Ruder Boškovic [Wikipedia]

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