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Portrait and signature of Giovanni Battista Amici

By Alberto Meschiari

Giovanni Battista Amici (Modena, 25 March 1786 – Florence, 10 April 1863) was the foremost Italian optical scientific instrument maker of the nineteenth century and one of the leading figures of his period at an international level.

He made particularly important contributions in the field of microscopic optics, including improvements to the modern compound catadioptric and achromatic microscope. His name is also associated with the construction of reflecting and refracting telescopes, terrestrial telescopes, micrometers, reflecting sectors and circles, repeating circles, a transit instrument, levels, sundials, prisms and camera lucida.

He applied the hemispherical front lens to the microscope object-glass (1838), and introduced the technique of immersion in water (1847) and in various types of oil (1855). Between 1857 and 1860 he invented the direct vision prism which continues to be used in spectroscopy and still bears his name.

Amici performed astronomical and naturalistic observations to verify the quality of his instruments, in some cases resulting in groundbreaking discoveries. In 1846 he described the entire fertilisation process for Phanerogamous plants (Angiosperms) observed in several types of Orchids.

For further details see Biographical note (PDF) and Biography

Useful Links:

http://www.imss.fi.it
Institute and Museum of The History of Science, Florence

http://www.fstfirenze.it
Science and Technology Foundation, Florence

http://www.df.unibo.it/museo/welcome.htm
Physics Museum, University of Bologna

http://www.musei.unipd.it/fisica/
Museum of the History of Physics, University of Padua

http://ppp.unipv.it/musei
Museum for the History of the University of Pavia

http://www.sullacrestadellonda.it/
Nautical instruments, reflecting circle

http://www.fox talbot .arts.gla.ac.uk
The correspondence of W.H. Fox Talbot

http://echo.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/content/optics/
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Drawing with Optical Instruments

http://ronchi.iei.pi.cnr.it/
Giorgio Ronchi Foundation

English translation by Melanie Rockenhaus