Giovanni Schiaparelli


Italian astronomer who drew attention to linear markings on Mars, which gave rise to popular belief that they were canals.
These markings were soon shown by French astronomer Eugène Antoniadi to be optical effects and not real lines. Schiaparelli also gave observational evidence for the theory that all meteor showers are fragments of disintegrating comets.
During his mapping of Mars, beginning 1877, Schiaparelli noted what his colleague in Rome, Pietro Secchi, had called 'channels' (canali). Schiaparelli adopted this term and also wrote of 'seas' and 'continents', but he made it quite clear that he did not mean the words to be taken literally. Nevertheless, fanciful stories of advanced life on Mars proliferated on the basis of the 'canals'.
Schiaparelli was born in Savigliano, Piedmont, and studied at Turin. From 1860 he was astronomer at the Brera Observatory in Milan. He discovered asteroid 69 (Hesperia) 1861, but mainly studied comets until more sophisticated instruments became available at Milan, and then turned his attention to the planets. He also studied ancient and medieval astronomy.
Schiaparelli concluded that Mercury and Venus revolved in such a way as always to present the same side to the Sun. Other observations included a study of binary stars in order to deduce their orbital systems.


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