Secchi, (Pietro) Angelo
BornReggio nell’Emilia, (Emilia Romagna, Italy), 18 June 1818
DiedRome, Italy, 26 February 1878
A pioneer in the study of the physical characteristics of celestial bodies, Pietro Angelo Secchi, S.J., observed spectra of the stars, classified more than 4,000 of them according to a scheme he devised, and made important studies on the physical constitution of the Sun. His achievements, during the 1860s and 1870s, contributed to the rapid growth of astrophysics as a new way of studying the heavens.
Secchi’s parents, who aimed to give their son an education fit for his quick mind, had him attend the Jesuit Gymnasium in his hometown. He was only 15 when he became a Jesuit novice in Rome. There, he devoted himself to the study of classical literature, philosophy, and the exact sciences. While deeply interested in all fields of knowledge, Secchi soon showed a greater concern for science. From 1841, he taught physics at Loreto College. His scientific interests came to encompass mathematics,...
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