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Portrait of Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli.

Portrait of Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli.

H419/0064

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SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

The Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, 1835-1910. Educated in Italy, Germany and Russia, Schiaparelli was Director of the Milan Observatory for forty years. In 1866 he showed that meteors follow cometary orbits. In 1877 Mars made one of its closest approaches to Earth enabling Schiapparelli 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.

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