Giovanni Battista Riccioli

Giovanni Battista Riccioli

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Giovanni Battista Riccioli

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Giovanni Battista Riccioli (17 April 1598 – 25 June 1671) was an Italian astronomer and a Catholic priest. He was a Jesuit who entered the order in 1614. He was also the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body.


Riccioli was born in Ferrara. He devoted his career to the study of astronomy, often working with Francesco Maria Grimaldi. He wrote the important work Almagestum novum in 1651. By necessity, he opposed the Copernican heliocentric theory though praising its value as a simple hypothesis.

He and Grimaldi extensively studied the Moon, of which Grimaldi drew a map. Much of the nomenclature of lunar features still in use today is due to him and Grimaldi. He also observed Saturn, and was one of the first Europeans to note that Mizar was a double star.

Despite his stated opposition to Copernicus's theory he named the prominent lunar crater Copernicus after him, and other important craters were named after other proponents of the theory Kepler, Galileo and Lansbergius. Craters that he and Grimaldi named after themselves are in the same general vicinity, while some other Jesuit astronomers have craters named after them in a different part of the Moon, near Tycho. This is sometimes considered to be tacit sympathy for Copernican theory, which as a Jesuit he could not publicly express.

Between 1644 and 1656, he was occupied by topographical measurements, working with Grimaldi, determining values for the circumference of Earth and...
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