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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:
National Institute of Astrophysics
Polvere di Stelle: the cultural heritage of Italian Astronomy
Institute and Museum of The History of Science, Florence
Science and Technology Foundation, Florence
Physics Museum, University of Bologna
Museum of the History of Physics, University of Padua
Museum for the History of the University of Pavia
Nautical instruments, reflecting circle talbot
The correspondence of W.H. Fox Talbot
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Drawing with Optical Instruments
Giorgio Ronchi Foundation

English translation by Melanie Rockenhaus