Bedini, Silvio A. 1917-2007

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Bedini, Silvio A. 1917-2007


See index for CA sketch: Born January 17, 1917, in Ridgefield, CT; died November 14, 2007. Museum curator, administrator, historian, and author. Bedini was endowed with a curiosity that led him into previously ignored historical investigations, and he spent much of his life bringing his discoveries to light. His interest in the artifacts of early technology began as a hobby and inspired his livelihood as a curator of engineering devices at the U.S. National Museum in Washington, DC, in the 1960s. He worked at the Museum of History and Technology, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, from 1965 through the end of his career. Bedini was especially interested in clocks and surveying devices, and he was drawn repeatedly to the inventions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but his writings touched on a wide range of early American scientific instruments and the men who used them. Bedini shared his knowledge in more than two dozen books that explored whatever subject piqued his interest at the time. The Life of Benjamin Banneker: The First African-American Man of Science (1972) is a tribute to the former slave who became a respected astronomer and almanac writer. Thinkers and Tinkers: Early American Men of Science (1975) celebrated the achievements of American colonists who shared his own scientific curiosity and love of learning. The Scent of Time: A Study of the Use of Fire and Incense for Time Measurement in Oriental Countries (1963) demonstrated Bedini's ability to immerse himself in a narrowly focused study of a very obscure topic. The Pope's Elephant (1996) represented Bedini's intellectual sense of adventure. He followed a rumor of a pope who had owned a rhinoceros to the papacy of Leo X (1513-1521), whose zoo of exotic animals revealed only one facet of the colorful prelate's life. Most of Bedini's writings, however, reflected his special interest in compasses and other navigational aids, surveying instruments and other tools of the mapmakers. These writings include With Compass and Chain: Early American Surveyors and Their Instruments (2001). Bedini's dedication to his somewhat specialized field was acknowledged by several awards and honors, including the Leonardo da Vinci Medal of the Society for the History of Technology, which he received in 2000.



Times (London, England), January 1, 2008, p. 48.