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Abetti, Antonio

Abetti, Antonio

(b. S. Pietro di Gorizia, italy, 19 June 1846; d. Arcetri [Florence], Italy, 20 February 1928)


Although Abetti received a degree in civil engineering from the University of Padua in 1867, he abandoned engineering the following year in order to devote himself to astronomy. He was appointed astronomer of the observatory of the University of Padua in 1868, and he remained there until 1893. In 1894, following a public competitive examination, he was appointed director of the astronomical observatory of Arcetri and professor of astronomy at the University of Florence; he held this post until 1921, when he was obliged to retire because he had reached the compulsory retirement age. Nonetheless, from 1921 to 1928, Abetti continued his researches in astronomy at the observatory. He was a member of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Rome), associate member of the Royal Astronomical Society (London), and a member of several other Italian academies.

Abetti’s scientific activity was devoted essentially to positional astronomy. At Padua, with a modest equatorial telescope, he made many observations on the positions of small planets, comets, occultation of stars, and eclipses. In 1874, as a member of the Italian expedition directed by P. Tacehini, he went to Muddapur in Bengal, to observe the transit of Venus over the disc of the sun: it was the first time that this transit was observed through the spectroscope. Abetti also determined the geographic coordinates of the station.

In addition, Abetti determined the differences in longitude between various Italian localities, a project sponsored by the Italian Geodetic Commission. These studies resulted in the perfection and simplification of determinations of time. When he took over the directorship of the Arcetri observatory, which had been founded by G.B. Donati in 1872 and had been practically abandoned after Donati’s death, Abetti set about reconstructing it. He provided the observatory with an equatorial telescope, which he had built in the shops of the observatory of Padua. To it he adapted the well-known objective previously constructed by G.B. Amici, with a diameter of twenty-eight centimeters, and a “Bamberg’s small meridian circle.” With these instruments he was able to carry out, and to encourage others to carry out, many observations on the positions of small planets, comets, and fixed stars.

All these observations and his scientific studies on the precision of observations, and the solution of equations that are met with in the method of least squares, are published in various issues of Memoirs and Observations of the Observatory of Arcetri.


Obituary notices are G. Armellini, Rendiconti Accademia dei Lincei, 9 (1929), 13; L. Carnera, Vierteljahrschrift der Astronomischen Gesellschaft, 64 (1929), 2; and G. Silva, Memorie della Società Astronomica Italiana, 4 (1928), 193.

Giorgio Abetti

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