Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, a renowned Italian astronomer, was director of the Osservatorio di Brera between 1862 and 1900. Graduated in Turin in 1854, in 1857 he went to the observatories of Berlin and St. Petersburg to further refine his astronomic studies. He carried out important research on the connection between meteors and comets, and on the planet Mars, on the surface of which he observed a network of linear structures that he called “canals.”
Schiaparelli is considered the ideal initiator of the Politecnico’s great school of topography and geodesy: his appointment as professor of geodesy predates the founding of the University. He was also one of the proponents for the creation in Milan of a center of higher education having a scientific and practical character. Conditioned by the strong development of industry, Milanese astronomy needed to demonstrate its practical implications for productive activities in order to be able to appeal for funding available to sciences with industrial applications. The scientific industry could thus avail itself of the results of research conducted by institutions and, in turn, finance them.
This telescope is one of the oldest used at the osservatorio Astronomico di Brera. it has a long axis positioned toward the Celestial North Pole, and the objective is composed of a pair of lenses 10 cm in diameter (no longer present). Using this tool, on 26 April 1861 Giovanni Schiaparelli performed the first scientific discovery of the newly united italy: he found a new asteroid which he christened Esperia, after the Greek name of the italian peninsula. With Sisson, Schiaparelli studied the comet 1862 ii, by means of which he succeeded in giving a correct scientific explanation for the phenomenon of shooting stars. These two discoveries earned him a reputation that he made use of in asking the new italian government for financing for the purchase of a more modern instrument. With the new telescope, Schiaparelli began his campaign of studying the planet Mars, which would lead to his discovery of the celebrated canals and would bring him worldwide fame and recognition.
This instrument came into use at the osservatorio Astronomico di Brera during the 1930s. Commissioned by then director Emilio Bianchi, it replaced the one utilized by Schiaparelli for his first studies on Mars, but for various reasons, it did not have the same scientific success. Already underpowered with respect to the standards of the times, it was primarily used for astrometric studies.
Early 20th century
Presented at the 1894 Esposizioni Riunite di Milano, this type of instrument can be used for measuring the positions of the stars in the sky with great precision and represents the evolution of the oldest mural quadrants and meridian circles. Throughout its history, the Salmoiraghi company produced a wide range of tools and accessories for astronomical observations, compiling a catalog of products representing one of the most important examples of ingenuity and adaptability of the times.