Memories of the Observatory

dell’Università Gregoriana in Collegio Romano
diretto dai PP. della Compagnia di Gesù. Anno 1850
Angelo Secchi
Roma, Tipografia delle Belle Arti, 1851
Tav. I
220 x 310 mm
Library of INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Palermo

Although the Observatory of the Roman College did print some publications prior to the direction of Secchi, it is irrefutable that he started to revamp the publication of the Memorie dell’Osservatorio del Collegio Romano, as soon as he was charged with the direction of the Observatory. In the Memorie, Secchi published the most important and notable works, the reports on the Observatory status, the received donations, and everything regarding the Observatory activity.
The first issue, published in 1851, contains the description of the works carried on at the Observatory, and beside the observations and the astronomical studies, it also includes a notable meteorologic section, with data of barometric and thermometric series since 1843 to 1850, uninterrupted even during the period in which Jesuits had left the College due to the exile.
The second issue, published in 1852, starts with an inscription by Pius IX and contains the description of the various improvements made on the instruments, beside the usual astronomical and meteorological observations; in the final part also some phyics research are present, about solar radiation.
A third issue, published in 1856, describes the new observatory built on S.Ignazio church’s roof, its instruments, and its scientific program: since then, the Observatory of the Roman College is fully responding to the scientific interests of Secchi and its name clearly appears on the frontispiece. After the issue published in 1859, that beside a collection of astronomical researches, includes the description of the new meterological and geomagnetic instruments of the Observatory, Secchi feels the need of an instrument allowing a faster dissemination of the results, and he establishes the Bullettino Meteorologico dell’Osservatorio del Collegio Romano.
The last issue of Memorie is published by Secchi in 1863, with a collection of materials already published elsewhere, making notice to the readers that the reduced staff does not allow a regular writing of the Memorie nor the implementation of a traditional program of observations. Lately he would publish his main works in the Acta of the main Academies which he was associated.
Despite their short duration, the Memorie are extremely important to understand the first years of Secchi as a director of the Observatory and the transition to a decisive orientation given by him toward the physic astronomy.
After Secchi’s death and the requisition of the Observatory, the Memorie would be published again, with irregular periodicity, under the name of Memorie del R. Osservatorio del Collegio Romano, since 1899 until 1921, when the Observatory of the Roman College got together with the Capitol one to realize the new Astronomical Observatory of Rome, on Monte Mario.
Figures 1-3 of the panel show the set up of the spaces and of the instruments at the Observatory of the Roman College prior to its moving; Figure 4 shows the ancient target of the meridian circle of Ertel, standing on the enclosure of the Basilica of S.Sabina on the Aventino; figure 5 shows a sketch of Saturn, which study was among the initial interests of Secchi.

Ileana Chinnici - INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo