Giovanni Schiaparelli bigraphy, stories - Italian astronomer

Giovanni Schiaparelli : biography

March 14, 1835 - July 4, 1910

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli ( 14 March 1835 – 4 July 1910) was an Italian astronomer and science historian.


His niece, Elsa Schiaparelli, became a noted designer or maker of haute couture.

Honors and awards

[[Mars surface map of Schiaparelli]]


  • Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1872)
  • Bruce Medal (1902)

Named after him

  • Asteroid 4062 Schiaparelli
  • The crater Schiaparelli on the Moon
  • The crater Schiaparelli on Mars

Selected writings

  • 1873 - Le stelle cadenti (The Falling Stars)
  • 1893 - La vita sul pianeta Marte (Life on Mars)
  • 1925 - Scritti sulla storia della astronomia antica (Writings on the History of Classical Astronomy) in three volumes. Bologna. Reprint: Milano, Mimesis, 1997.


Among Schiaparelli's contributions are his telescopic observations of Mars. In his initial observations, he named the "seas" and "continents" of Mars. During the planet's "Great Opposition" of 1877, he observed a dense network of linear structures on the surface of Mars which he called "canali" in Italian, meaning "channels" but the term was mistranslated into English as "canals."Washam, Erik, , Smithsonian magazine, December 2010.

While the term "canals" indicates an artificial construction, the term "channels" connotes that the observed features were natural configurations of the planetary surface. From the incorrect translation into the term "canals", various assumptions were made about life on Mars; as these assumptions were popularized, the "canals" of Mars became famous, giving rise to waves of hypotheses, speculation, and folklore about the possibility of intelligent life on Mars, the Martians. Among the most fervent supporters of the artificial-canal hypothesis was the American astronomer Percival Lowell, who spent much of his life trying to prove the existence of intelligent life on the red planet. After Lowell's death in 1916, astronomers developed a consensus against the canal hypothesis, but the popular concept of Martian canals excavated by intelligent Martians remained in the public mind for the first half of the 20th century, and inspired a corpus of works of classic science fiction.

Later, with notable thanks to the observations of the Italian astronomer Vicenzo Cerulli, scientists came to the conclusion that the famous channels were actually mere optical illusions. The last popular speculations about canals were finally put to rest during the spaceflight era beginning in the 1960s, when visiting spacecraft such as Mariner 4 photographed the surface with much higher resolution than Earth-based telescopes, confirming that there are no structures resembling "canals".

In his book "Life on Mars", Schiaparelli wrote: "Rather than true channels in a form familiar to us, we must imagine depressions in the soil that are not very deep, extended in a straight direction for thousands of miles, over a width of 100, 200 kilometers and maybe more. I have already pointed out that, in the absence of rain on Mars, these channels are probably the main mechanism by which the water (and with it organic life) can spread on the dry surface of the planet."


He was educated at the University of Turin, and later studied at Berlin Observatory, under Encke. In 1859-1860 he worked in Pulkovo Observatory and then worked for over forty years at Brera Observatory. He was also a senator of the Kingdom of Italy, a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino and the Regio Istituto Lombardo, and is particularly known for his studies of Mars.

Astronomy and history of science

An observer of objects in the solar system, Schiaparelli worked with binary stars, discovered the asteroid 69 Hesperia on April 26, 1861, and demonstrated that the Perseids and Leonids meteor showers were associated with comets. He proved, for example, that the orbit of the Leonids meteor shower coincided with that of the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. These observations led the astronomer to formulate the hypothesis, subsequently proved to be very exact, that the meteor showers could be the trails of comets.

Schiaparelli was a scholar of the history of classical astronomy. He was the first to realize that the concentric spheres of Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus, unlike those used by many astronomers of later times, were not to be taken as material objects, but only as part of an algorithm similar to the modern Fourier series.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine