Giovanni Schiaparelli, Italian astronomer

Giovanni Schiaparelli, Italian astronomer

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli (1835-1910), Italian astronomer and science historian. Educated in Italy, Germany and Russia, Schiaparelli was Director of the Milan Observatory for forty years. In 1866 he showed that Perseid and Leonid meteors follow cometary orbits. In 1877, Mars made one of its closest approaches to Earth enabling Schiaparelli to discover its southern polar ice cap. He also saw many dark lines criss-crossing the planet and he termed them 'canali' (channels) which was mistranslated as 'canals'. As a result the American astronomer Lowell suggested that they were irrigation features constructed by a Martian civilisation. Schiaparelli believed them to be natural features. Artwork dates from 1870.

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