Caterina Scarpellini died on this day in history

On this day in history: Caterina Scarpellini – astronomer – died

History of Italy News

The astronomer Caterina Scarpellini died on 28th November 1873 in Rome. She discovered a comet in 1854 and was later awarded a medal by the Italian government for her contribution to the understanding of astronomy and other areas of science.

From the age of 18 Caterina worked with her uncle, Abbe Feliciano Scarpellini, director of the Roman Campidoglio Observatory. He had been appointed in 1816 by Pope Pius VI to a new chair of sacred physics in the Roman College of the Campidoglio. This was a significant turning point in the attitude of the Church to science.

From 1847 onwards, Caterina edited Corrispondenza Scientifica in Rome, a bulletin publishing scientific discoveries.

Caterina published reports of her astronomical observations and meteorological measurements in Italian, French and Belgian journals. She also wrote about electrical, magnetic and geological phenomena.

Noted observer of meteorological events

Caterina married Erasmo Fabri, who was also an assistant at the observatory. Together they established a meteorological station in Rome.

She compiled the first Italian meteor catalogue and was the only observer in Rome of the 1866 Leonid meteor shower. Furthermore, she documented the observation of the great comet of April 1854, now known as C/1854 F1 , and that of June 1861. She also noted the solar eclipse of 1860 and the passages of meteor showers between 1861 and 1868. In addition, Caterina recorded the earthquakes and particular phenomena that occurred in Rome in the same years.

Her writings on the influence of the moon on earthquakes brought her honours from the Moscow Imperial Society of Naturalists and the Viennese Royal Geological Institute.

Caterina also wrote about Saturn’s rings, her ideas about the formation of the planets and her hypotheses concerning celestial mechanics. She became a member of the Accademia dei Georgofili in Florence, an historic institution promoting scientific and agricultural research.

Caterina died at the age of 65 following a stroke. A statue of her was erected in the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome.

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