Article ID: CBB660622413

The founding of Arcetri Observatory in Florence (2020)


The first idea of establishing a public astronomical observatory in Florence, Capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, dates to the middle of the eighteenth century. Initially, the use of a low building on a high ground was proposed, and the hill of Arcetri was suggested as a suitable location. At the end of the century, the Florence Observatory - or Specola - was built instead on a tower at the same level as the city's centre. As soon as astronomers started to use this observatory they recognized all its flaws and struggled to search for a better location. Giovanni Battista Donati, Director of the Specola of Florence from the eve of the Italian Unification in 1859, finally succeeded in creating a new observatory: first, he obtained funds from the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy to build an equatorial mounting for the Amici 28-cm refractor, which could not be installed conveniently in the tower of the Specola; then, he went through the process of selecting a proper site, seeking funds and finally building Arcetri Observatory. Although Donati was a pioneer of spectroscopy and astrophysics, his intent was to establish a modern observatory for classical astronomy, as the Italian peninsula did not have a national observatory like those located in many foreign capitals - Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871. To promote this project, Donati made use of writings by one of the most authoritative European astronomers, Otto Wilhelm Struve. This paper describes all the steps that eventually led to the inauguration of Arcetri Observatory in 1872, almost 150 years ago.

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Authors & Contributors
Hoskin, Michael A.
Maerker, Anna
Dick, Wolfgang R.
Fritze, Klaus
Ceglia, Francesco de
Diana, Esther
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Perspectives on Science
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Physics in Perspective
History of Science
L'Erma di Bretschneider
Verlag Harri Deutsch
Lehmanns Colonialwaren im Eigenverl.
Cambridge University Press
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Astronomical observatories
Human anatomy
Herschel, William
Parson, Willaim Earl of Rosse
Franklin, Benjamin
Herschel, Caroline
Kepler, Johannes
Brahe, Tycho
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
17th century
20th century
Early modern
16th century
Florence (Italy)
Philadelphia, PA
Berlin (Germany)
Museo della Specola, Florence
University of Pennsylvania
Great Britain. Board of Longitude
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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