Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli

Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli


Date of Birth
March 14, 1835
Date of Death
July 4, 1910

Giovanni Schiaparelli was born in Piedmont and studied hydraulic engineering and civil architecture at the University of Turin and then astronomy at the observatories at Berlin and Pulkovo. He worked at the Brera Observatory in Milan for forty years, all but the first two as director. Although a major observer of double stars, he is best known for his observations of solar system objects. In 1861 he achieved some fame for discovering the minor planet Hesperia. He made extensive studies, both observational and theoretical, of comets, determining from the shapes of their tails that there was a repulsive force from the sun. He showed that Venus and Mercury rotate very slowly, although he concluded, erroneously, that they were in synchronous rotation. He explained the regular meteor showers as the result of the dissolution of comets and proved it for the Perseids. Schiaparelli observed Mars over seven oppositions and named the “seas” and “continents”. His observations of canali, mistranslated as canals, stimulated Percival Lowell to found his Arizona observatory and search for life on Mars. Schiaparelli also observed the other planets. Expert in both ancient and modern languages as well as religions, he took up the history of ancient astronomy after retiring from observing in 1900.

Presentation of Bruce medal

Dolbeer, John, PASP 14, 37-42 (1902).

Other awards

French Academy of Sciences, Lalande Prize, 1868, 1890.
Government of Germany, Order Pour le Merite for Arts and Sciences, 1895.
Italian Society of Science, Gold Medal, 1868.
Royal Astronomical Society, Gold medal, 1872.

Biographical materials

All'astronomo G.V. Schiaparelli: omaggio 30 giugno 1860 - 30 giugno 1900 (M. Bassani, Milano, 1900). This book includes a biblography of his writings to 1900.
Abetti, Giorgio, Dictionary of Scientific Biography 12, 159-62.
Istituto lombardo-acc. scienze lettere, Milano & Osservatorio astronomico di Brera, Milano, Atti del Convegno per le celebrazioni del cinquantenario della morte di G. V. Schiaparelli, (Milano, 1960).
Bianucci, Piero, “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli,” L’Astronomia 6 45-48 (1980).
Boccardi, Jean, “La Commémoration de Jean Schiaparelli,”Revue Général des Sciences Pures et Appliquées 46, 379-82 (1935).
Botta, Luigi, l'Astronomo Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli [includes extensive list of links, in Italian]
Brera Observatory (in Italian)
Cossavella, G. , L’Astronomo Giovanni Schiaparelli (Turin, 1914).
Doublet, E., “Le Centenaire de Giovanni Schiaparelli,” Ciel et Terre 52, 50 and 52, 82-86 (1936) [in French].
Fergola, E., et al, All’Astronomo G.V. Schiaparelli-Omaggio, 30 Giugno 1860–30 Giugno 1900 (Milan, 1900).
Gabba, Luigi, “Giovanni Schiaparelli e la storia dell’astronomia,” Rendic. Seminar, Mat. Fis. Milano 2, 121-38 (1928).
Gabba, Luigi, Schiaparelli (La Scuola, Brescia, 194?).
Mazzucato, Michele T., “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli,” JRASC 100, 114-17 (2006).
Mazzucato, Michele T., “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli: Fonti per una ricerca,” — includes timeline and bibliography (in Italian).
Mazzucato, Michele T., Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli: Centenario della morte, 1910-2010 (Edizioni Tassinari, Firenze, 2010) [in Italian].
Panaino, Antonio & Guido Pellegini, eds., Giovanni Schiaparelli: Storico della Astronomia e Uomo di Cultura. Atti del Seminario di Studi Organizzato dall’Instituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente e dall’Instituto di Fisica Generale Applicata dell’Università degli Studi di Milano, (Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Milano, 1999).
Schiaparelli and His Legacy: Symposium: Milano, Oct 19-20, Torino Oct 21, 2010. On the Centenary of His Death.
Tenn, Joseph S., “Giovanni Schiaparelli: The Fourth Bruce Medalist,” Mercury 19, 4, 116 (1990).
Zagar, Francesco, “Giovanni Schiaparelli nel Cinquantenario Della Morte ,” Contributi dell'Osservatorio Astronomico di Milano-Merate. Nuova serie, n. 161 (Prem. Tipografia Succ., Milano, 1960).


Abetti, A. & G. , Ap.J. 32, 313-19 (1910).
Aitken, Robert G., PASP 22, 164-65 (1910).
Bonacini, Carlo, Commemorazione Di Giovanni Schiaparelli (Società Tipografica Modenese, Modena, 1911).
Celoria, Giovanni, Giovanni Schiaparelli : brevi note commemorative (Tipo-Lit. Rebeschini di Turati, Milano, 1910).
Celoria, Giovanni, Scientia Rivista di Scienza 9, 169-185 (1911).
K[nobel], E. B., MNRAS 71, 282-87 (1911).
MacPherson, H.J., Popular Astronomy 18, 467-74 (1910).
Sampson, R.A, Proceedings of the Royal Society A 86, 37-38 (1911-12).


Botta,Luigi, l'Astronomo Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (several)
Burchill, Shirley, The Open Door Web Site
CollectSpace, Postage stamp issued on centennial of death
Getty Images
Library of Congress: autographed drawing by Robert Kastor
Philosophy of Science Portal, 16 March 2009
Schiaparelli at age 30 from the book by G. Peyretti, Il sommo astronomo Virginio Giovanni Schiaparelli glorificato nella sua città natia. Brevi cenni a ricordo dellinaugurazione del monumento che ne eterna la gloriosa memoria — 15 novembre 1925 (Stab. Tip. Sociale, Savigliano CN, 1925), courtesy Michele T. Mazzucato.
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Windows to the Universe

Named after him

Lunar crater Schiaparelli
Martian crater Schiaparelli
Mercurian ridge Schiaparelli
Minor Planet #4062 Schiaparelli
Istituto Tecnico Commerciale Statale e P.A.C.L.E. Giovanni Schiaparelli
Schiaparelli Tower
La Grotta Schiaparelli (Schiaparelli Cave)
Osservatorio Astronomico G. V. Schiaparelli


Papers, etc.

Schiaparelli’s papers are at the Brera Observatory.

Other References: Historical

Abalakin, V.K., ed. & trans., O.V. Struve–Dzh.V. Skiaparelli: perepiska 1859-1904 (Nauka, St. Petersburg, 2005) [correspondence between Otto V. Struve and Schiaparelli, in Russian].

Antonello, E., “Schiaparelli and the Dawn of Astronomy,” Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana 82, 280-89 (2011). [Slides accompanying a lecture version of this paper presented in Schiaparelli and His Legacy: Symposium: Milano, Oct 19-20, Torino Oct 21, 2010. On the Centenary of His Death (pdf).]

Antoniadi, E.M., “Les Observations Planétaires de Schiaparelli,” Ciel et Terre 52, 161-63 (1936).

Atti del Convegno per le Celebrazioni del Cinquantenario della Morte di G. V. Schiaparelli, 1-3 ottobre 1960 (Prem. Tipografia Succ., Milano, 1960).

Barnard, E.E. & G.V. Schiaparelli, “Facsimile di una Parte della Conversazione tra...,” Memorie della Societa Astronomia Italiana, 8, 420 (1935).

Bernagozzi, Andrea, Antonella Testa, & Pasquale Tucci, “Observing Mars with Schiaparelli's telescope,” in R.A. Harris & L. Ouwehand, eds., Proceedings of the Third European Workshop on Exo-Astrobiology, 18 - 20 November 2003, Madrid, Spain (ESA Publications Division, ESA SP-545, Noordwijk, Netherlands, 2004), pp. 157-58.

Bianchi, S. D. Galli, & A. Gasperini, “G.V. Schiaparelli and the Arcetri Observatory,” Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana 82, 253-58 (2011). [This was originally a lecture presented in Schiaparelli and His Legacy: Symposium: Milano, Oct 19-20, Torino Oct 21, 2010. On the Centenary of His Death. The slides accompanying the lecture are available as a pdf. A longer version appears as a booklet in Italian: Bianchi, Simone, Daniele Galli, & Antonella Gasperini, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli e l’Osservatorio di Arcetri (Fondazione Giorgio Ronchi, CXI, Firenze, 2011).]

Braga, Raffaello, “Le osservazioni di Venere di Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli,” Astronomia. La rivista dell'Unione Astrofili Italiani Astronomia. La rivista dell'Unione Astrofili Italiani 2, 19-23 (2003) [abstract].

Buffoni, L., A. Manara, & P. Tucci, “G.V. Schiaparelli and A. Secchi on Shooting Stars,” Memorie della Societa Astronomia Italiana 61, 935-59 (1990).

De Meis, Salvo, “Schiaparelli Astronomer and Historian: From Astronomy to Assyriology” [Slides accompanying a lecture presented in Schiaparelli and His Legacy: Symposium: Milano, Oct 19-20, Torino Oct 21, 2010. On the Centenary of His Death (pdf).]

Defrancesco, S., “Schiaparelli’s Determination of the Rotation Period of Mercury: A Re-examination,” Journal of the British Astronomical Association 98, 146-150 (1988).

Fleckenstein, J.O., “L’importance des textes cunéiformes antiques pour la mécanique céleste moderne et les recherches historiques de G. V. Schiaparelli,” Mem. Soc. Astron. Ital. 43, 745-750 (1973).

Lane, K. Maria D., “Geographers of Mars: Cartographic Inscription and Exploration Narrative in Late Victorian Representations of the Red Planet,” Isis 96, 477-506 (2005).

Lane, K. Maria D., Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2010).

Manara, Alessandro & Franca Chlistotvsky, “Il contributo di Giovanni Schiaparelli alla organizzazione del Servizio internazionale delle latitudini dalla corrispondenza scientifica,” in Storia del Servizio internazionale delle latitudini e delle imprese di cooperazione internazionale (1850-1950) & astronomia e archeoastronomia p.155-166, 155-66.

Manara, Alessandro & Franca Chlistotvsky, “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, Percival Lowell: scambi epistolari inediti,” Nuncius 19, 1, 253-96 (2004) [35 previously unpublished letters between Schiaparelli and Lowell, 34 in French, 1 in English].

Manara, A., “Mars in the Schiaparelli-Lowell’s Correspondence,” Memorie della Societa Astronomica Italiana Supplement 6, 12 (2005).

Mazzucato, Michele T. and GruppoM1, “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli: Fonti per una ricerca” (includes extensive bibliography, in Italian)

Nobili, Anna M., “The Rotation of Mercury from Schiaparelli to Colombo” [Slides accompanying a lecture presented in Schiaparelli and His Legacy: Symposium: Milano, Oct 19-20, Torino Oct 21, 2010. On the Centenary of His Death (pdf).]

Ordway, F.I., “The legacy of Schiaparelli and Lowell,” J. Br. Interplanet. Soc. 39, 19-27 (1986).

Panaino, Antonio and Guido Pilgrims, eds. Giovanni Schiaparelli : storico della astronomia e uomo di cultura : atti del Seminario di studi organizzato dall'Istituto italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente e dall'Istituto di fisica generale applicata dell'Università degli studi di Milano, Milano 12-13 maggio 1997, Osservatorio astronomico di Brera (IsIAO, Milano, 1999).

Sheehan, William, The Planet Mars (Univ. of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1996).

Sheehan, William, “Giovanni Schiaparelli: Visions of a Colour Blind Astronomer,” Journal Brit. Astr. Assoc. 107, 11-15 (1997).

Testa, Antonella, “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli: la cupola e il telescopio rifrattore Merz,” I Cieli Di Brera 67-82.

Tucci, Pasquale, “Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910): a two-faced Janus,” in R. A. Harris & L. Ouwehand, eds., Proceedings of the Third European Workshop on Exo-Astrobiology, 18 - 20 November 2003, Madrid, Spain (ESA Publications Division, ESA SP-545, Noordwijk, Netherlands, 2004), pp. 303-06.

Van Biesbroeck, G., ed., “E.E. Barnard’s Visit to G. Schiaparelli,” Popular Astronomy 42, 553-558 (1934).

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Other References: Scientific

Schiaparelli, G.V., Le opere di G.V. Schiaparelli, pubblicate per cura della Reale Specola di Brera, 11 vols. (Real Specola di Brera, Milan, 1929-43; reprinted by Johnson Reprint Corp., NY, 1968).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, “Manuscripts and drawings of Mars”, with discussion in Italian and a quotation from a letter to P. Lowell in French, 1861-1900, posted by the “Le mani su Marte” project at the Brera Observatory;lingua=inglese

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Note e riflessioni intorno alla teoria astronomica delle stelle cadenti, (Stamperia Reale, Firenze, 1867).

Schiaparelli, G.V., Entwurf einer astronomischen Theorie der Sternschnuppen (Th. v. d. Nahmer, Stettin, 1871).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Osservazioni astronomiche E fisiche sulla grande cometa del 1862 (1862 III). Con alcune riflessioni sulle forze che determinano la figura delle comete in generale, U. Hoepli, Milano, 1873).

Schiaparelli, G.V. “Osservazioni astronomiche e fisiche sull’asse di rotazione e sulla topographia del pianeta Marte," Atti della R. Academia dei Lincei, Memoria 1, ser. 3, vol. 2 (1877-78).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Sull' umidita atmosferica nel clima DI Milano (U. Hoepli, Milano, 1880).

Terby, François J.C., “Mémoire à l’appui des remarquables observations de M. Schiaparelli sur la planète Mars,” Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Belgique, Brussels. Mémoires couronnés et autres mémoires (Bruxelles, 1881).

Schiaparelli, G.V., “On Some Observations of Saturn and Mars,” Observatory 5, 221-24 (1882).

Schiaparelli, G.V., “The Rings of Saturn,” Observatory 6, 236-38 (1883).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Osservazioni sulle stelle doppie (U. Hoepli, Milano, 1888).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni, “Considerazioni sul moto rotatorio del pianeta Venere” [Note 1-5], Rendiconti del R. Istituto lombardo, ser. II, vol. 23 (1890).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio & Giovanni Celoria, Posizioni medie per 1870,0 DI 1119 stelle fino alla grandezza 7m, 5, comprese fra -2 E +6 DI declinazione, (U. Hoepli, Milano, 1891).

Schiaparelli, G.V., “The Distribution of Land and Water on Mars, followed by commentary by J.M. Schaeberle,” PASP 5, 169-73 (1893).

Schiaparelli, G., “Osservazioni di Comete,” Astr. Nach. 138, 249 (1895) [in Italian].

Schiaparelli, G. “Observations of the Planet Mars ” Science 9, 633-37 (1899).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Rubra Canicula (U. Hoepli, Milano, 1909).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Osservazioni sulle stelle doppie, Serie seconda (U. Hoepli, Milano, 1909).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni, “Orbites cométaires, courants cosmiques, météorites,” Bulletin Astronomique 27, 194-205 and 241-254 (1910).

Danjon, A., R. Guérinet, L. Prud’Homme, G. Rougier, J. Camus, F. Quénisset & G.-V. Schiaparelli, “Vénus,” Observatoire de la Société Astronomique de France Observations et Travaux, 2, 16-28 (1913) [in French].

Ma, Yuehua, Haibin Zhao, & Pinxin Xu, “Reformulation of Schiaparelli’s Theory on Flux of a Meteoroid Stream, ” Advances in Space Research 40, 262-65 (2007).

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Other Works: Popularizations, History, etc.

Schiaparelli, G., Le stelle cadenti tre letture [Shooting Stars: Three Lectures] (Casa Editrice Dottor Francesco Fratelli Treves Editori, Milano, 1873) [in Italian].

Schiaparelli, G.V., Die Vorläufer des Copernicus im Alterthum: historische untersuchungen; unter mitwirkung des verfassers ins Deutsche übertragen (Quandt & Händel, Leipzig, 1876).

Schiaparelli, G., “Notizie sull’osservatorio di Brera in Milano,” in Mediolanum (Casa Editrice Dottor Francesco Vallardi, Bologna, Milan & Naples, 1881) [in Italian].

Schiaparelli, G., La vita sul pianeta Marte: Tre scritti di Schiaparelli su Marte e i "marziani" (Mimesis, 1998) [reprints of three articles (in Italian) first published in Natura ed Arte in 1893, 1895, and 1909. They are also available free from Project Gutenberg.]

Schiaparelli, G., “The Rotation and Physical Constitution of the Planet Mercury and the Planet Mars,” in Essays in Astronomy (D. Appleton, NY, 1900).

Schiaparelli, G., Astronomy in the Old Testament (Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1905).

Schiaparelli, Giovanni Virginio, Scritti sulla storia dell’astronomia antica. 3 vols. (Niclola Zanichelli, Bolgona, 1925-27) [review by Basello Gian Pietro, in Italian].