Father Secchi Goes to Washington

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Session 4 -- Public Outreach
Display presentation, Monday, 9, 1995, 9:20am - 6:30pm

[4.01] Father Secchi Goes to Washington

M.F.McCarthy,S.J. (Vatican Obs.)

In 1848 a small group of Jesuit refugees arrived at Georgetown College near Washington, D.C. Among them was a young priest, Angelo Secchi, who had finished theology studies in Rome, but had not been able to complete his final examinations. This done successfully, Secchi turned to astronomy and the new facilities of the Georgetown College Observatory, directed by its founder, Fr. James Curley. During his two years in Washington, Secchi studied physics, wrote an article on Electrical Rheometry for the Smithsonian Institution, and formed a friendship with Matthew Fontaine Maury of the U.S. Navy, who headed the Chart Service and in 1844 was named superintendent of the National Observatory. This was later named the U.S. Naval Observatory. Secchi's friendships formed during the Washington visit proved most helpful for relations between European astronomers and U.S. colleagues. Secchi, after his return to Rome constructed the Observatory of the Collegio Romano atop the baroque Church of St. Ignatius in Rome and began his work in spectral classification of stars.

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