Amici, Giovanni Battista (1786 - 1868)
Giovanni Battista Amici was born in Modena, Italy, on the 25. (23.?) March 1786 as the son of the civil servant Giuseppe Amici and his wife Maria Dalloca.
The year before G. B. Amici graduated as an engineer in Bologna in 1807 he married Teresa Tamanini, daughter of a bookseller. He worked as a teacher for mathematics in Modena. In the following years Amici constructed microscopes and used them to study biological objects. He published his findings in several Italian journals. The description of the development of a catadioptric microscope was published in 1818.
W. von Biela visited Amici in 1827 and described10 some of the instruments he saw as "invented by a genius, made with the highest accuracy and fine art". Beside others there was "a reflecting telescope with vertical tube and a perforated mirror at the top that was movable in all directions, reflecting the light down the tube to a spherical or parabolic mirror which reflects back through the perforated mirror to the eyepiece"; "an equatorial instrument that gives 4" (arc second) in declination and 1" (second) of time. The two nonia on opposite sides of the circle give exactly the same second which indicates the exact division and centering". Biela mentions some "large reflecting telescopes, sextants and achromatic telescopes for which Mr. Amici grinds and polishes the lenses. Mr. Amici uses the flint glass made by Guinand in Neuchatel".
In 1831 Amici was invited by the grand duke of Tuscany to be astronomer and Professor of Astronomy at the observatory of the 'Museo de storia naturale' (Museum of Natural History) in Florence. Amici kept this post until 1859 when he changed to be director of microscopic research at the museum. During this time his work on optics was mainly on prisms and telescope optics, but he never left the microscope field. One of the prisms he invented still bears his name. The 28 cm lens for the Arcetri Observatory was the second largest optic at that time (1839) and is often described as Amici's masterpiece. It is still in use for astronomical observations.
Other instruments developed by him include micrometers which he used in Astronomy to improve angular measurements. One of his instruments, an 8-foot (focal length) Newtonian reflector, was used by Joseph Bianchi in Modena for the observation of stars occulted by the Moon. Bianchi published his observations in the 'Efemeridi di Milano', 1822.
G. B. Amici died in Florence on the 10. April 1868 (1863). Minor planet (3809) Amici is named after him as well as a crater on the hidden side of the Moon.
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 1 (1980), p. 135
The Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy
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