Giuseppe Piazzi

For the Italian bishop, see Giuseppe Piazzi (bishop).
"Piazzi" redirects here. For other uses, see Piazzi (disambiguation).
Giuseppe Piazzi
Giuseppe Piazzi.jpg
Giuseppe Piazzi
Born (1746-07-16)16 July 1746
Ponte in Valtellina, Italy
Died 22 July 1826(1826-07-22) (aged 80)
Naples, Italy
Nationality Italian
Fields Astronomy
Notable awards Lalande Prize (1803)

Giuseppe Piazzi (16 July 1746 – 22 July 1826) was an Italian Catholic priest of the Theatine order, mathematician, and astronomer. He was born in Ponte in Valtellina, and died in Naples. He established an observatory at Palermo, now the Osservatorio Astronomico di Palermo – Giuseppe S. Vaiana. [1] Perhaps his most famous discovery was the first dwarf planet, Ceres.

Early life

No documented account of Piazzi's scientific education is available in any of the biographies of the astronomer, even in the oldest ones. Piazzi certainly did some studies in Turin, quite likely attending Giovan Battista Beccaria's lessons. In the years 1768-1770 he was resident at the Theatines' Home in S. Andrea della Valle, Rome, while studying Mathematics under Francesco Jacquier.

In July 1770, he took the chair of Mathematics at the University of Malta. In December 1773, he moved to Ravenna as "prefetto degli studenti" and lecturer in Philosophy and Mathematics at the Collegio dei Nobili, where he stayed until the beginning of 1779. After a short period spent in Cremona and in Rome, in March 1781 Piazzi moved to Palermo as lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Palermo (at the time known as "Accademia de' Regj Studi").

He kept this position until 19 January 1787, when he became Professor of Astronomy. Almost at the same time, he was granted permission to spend two years in Paris and London, in order to undergo some practical training in astronomy and also to get some instruments to be specially built for the Palermo Observatory, whose foundation he was in charge of.

In the period spent abroad, from 13 March 1787 until the end of 1789, Piazzi became acquainted with the major French and English astronomers of his time and was able to have the famous altazimuthal circle made by Jesse Ramsden, one of the most skilled instrument-makers of the 18th century. The circle was the most important instrument of the Palermo Observatory, whose official foundation took place on 1 July 1790.

In 1817, King Ferdinand put Piazzi in charge of the completion of the Capodimonte (Naples) Observatory, naming him General Director of the Naples and Sicily Observatories.

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