Since its founding in 1891, many people have passed through the doors of the Vatican Observatory. A quick perusal of our guestbook reveals several Names, including Popes, nobel laureates, astronauts, actors, and saints.
For the past few weeks, we have been highlighting visitors who came on the occasion of the first General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union. Today’s visitors all came on May 10, 1922. They are Jules Delvosal, Giuseppe Armellini, Francesco Ferri, Henri Roussilhe, and Jan Krassowski.
Next to his name, Jules Joseph Désiré Delvosal (1876-1960) wrote, “Uccle (Belgique).”
This is a peculiar case where I have been unable to find any significant biographical information about the person, but his name appears in various publications, including the Transactions of the International Astronomical Union.
He was an astronomer at Uccle, and professor at the Collège Notre Dame in Antwerp, and he directed Uccle’s involvement in the Carte du Ciel project.
He was author of a 1905 description of the Gambey meridian telescope and a coauthor of a 1936 catalog of astronomical observatories and astronomers.
He was a member of the IAU commission on astronomical instruments and the commission on the Carte du Ciel project.
Giuseppe Armellini (1887-1958) wrote, “(Pisa – Università)”.
At the time of the IAU meeting, he was a professor of celestial mechanics at the University of Pisa. After the meeting in 1922, he would become director of the observatory of Rome, which was located at the time in Campidoglio.
He would oversee its transfer to Monte Mario, a hill overlooking Rome and Vatican City. (Today the Observatory of Rome is located on Monte Porzio Catone, near Frascati, and the Monte Mario location is occupied by INAF (the National Institute for Astrophysics).
He is noted for several astronomical accomplishments. He observed a connection between the eccentricity and mass under certain conditions for binary star systems. He studied the orbital dynamics of the moons of Jupiter and Neptune. Regarding comets, he established that they originated in connection with the solar system (not from outside the solar system).
In 1921 he published a paper “On the distances of the planets from the Sun,” in which he proposed a new law for planetary distances from the Sun. This law was a modification of the Titius-Bode Law (dn=2n × 3 + 4, where dn is the distance to the nth planet and n is counted n=-∞,0,1,2…). Armellini’s proposal took the form dn = 0.2792 × 1.53n, where n = 1,2,3,…). This proposal more accurately corresponded with measured distances to planets, though it contained several discrepancies. Of course, today with our increased understanding of other star systems as well as the orbital evoltion of our own solar system, we recognize that any attempt to formulate a general law of planetary distances is basically moot.
Armellini was a member of the Royal Accademia dei Lincei, and became an inaugural member of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences in 1936.
The asteroid 6855 Armellini is named for him, as is the Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale (State Industrial Technical Institute) G. Armellini in Rome.
He was a member of the IAU commission on relativity and the commission on astronomical dynamics and tables.
Next to his name, Lt. Col. Dr. Francesco Ferri (??-??) wrote, “dell’istituto gerog’ m’re di Firenze” (“from the military geographical institute of Florence”).
Again, this is someone whose name appears on several documents that I have been able to track down on the interwebs, but I have found almost no basic biographical information about him. (Curiously, though, I did find a photograph.)
He was commander of the Italian Second Radiotelegraph Regiment from 1926-1929.
He is listed as a registered member of the IAU, but does not appear to have served on any commissions.
Emma Ferri Gabiani
Under Lt. Col. Ferri, there is a name that appears to be Emma Ferri Gabiani (though I am not sure about the last part). This is possibly the Lt. Col.’s wife, but I have not found any information about her.
Fr. Edward Francis Pigot S.J. (1859-1929) wrote, “Riverview Observatory, Sydney, Australia.” This was in fact the second time that he signed the guest book during the IAU meeting. He had signed previously on May 6.
The next entry reads ND (nobildonna) Luisa [something something]. The second part appears to be Gracciati, but I wouldn’t put money on it, and I can’t make out the last part.
If you might be able to provide any insight into this signature, please let me know.
Next to his name, chief hydrographic engineer Henri Charles Clément Roussilhe (1879-1945) wrote, “Paris.”
Roussilhe was a hydrographic engineer of the French Navy. From 1911-1912, he surveyed the lower Congo and charted the course of the Sangha, Ngoko and Ubangi rivers, with the goal of establishing ports and improving navigability.
From 1918-1945, he was a professor of geodesy at the École spéciale des travaux publics (School of public works; ESTP) in Paris.
Roussilhe was not a registered participant in the IAU meeting, but probably was in Rome for the congress of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG).
Jan Marian Krassowski (1883-1947) wrote, “Bureau astronomique Varsovie.” (astronomical bureau, Warsaw)
He was director of the Observatory of Warsaw from 1916-1919. In 1926, he constructed the Observatory of Piaseczno.
He also advised the Polish Military Geographical Institute on matters related to astronomy, cartography and geodesy.
Krassowski sat on the IAU commission on minor planets and the commission for the calculation of ephemerides of minor planets, comets, and satellites. He also was a member of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, and may have participated in both congresses at the time of his visit to the Specola.