Thursday, September 06, 2012

You Don't know Francesco!

Even if you're a radio geek, odds are low that you know the name Francesco Zantedeschi. Even if you're an Italian radio engineer, Zantedeschi's contributions are so arcane he is still probably unknown to you. If I had to sum up the 'thesis' of my blog is that no one person invents anything. All progress by definition is cumulative. So I like to dig up obscure, seemingly trivial contributions and put them in context.

Zantedeschi was born in 1798 in Dolcè, near Verona, Italy. Zantedeschi was a  professor of physics in Venice.  He had interests outside of magnatism,his accomplishments in Botany were also substantial. The African flower (Zantedeschia Sprengel Araceae) is named for him .Many of his published works are online... in Italian. Bummer.

After his own schooling was complete he became a clerk, then a high school teacher. But his interest in physics brought him further into academia. He became a pro tempore professor at the University of Padua in 1849 teaching physics. While there, Francesco Zantedeschi studied light, eat, electricity and magnetism. While there, he became the first to suggest a connection between light, electricity and magnetism. I know that Michael Faraday gets all the big credit but he wasn't alone. So let's rewind to 1829. Zantedeschi published papers on the production of electric currents in a closed circuit caused by the approach and withdrawal of a magnet. This was just 2 years before Michael Faraday's induction experiments. Zantedeschi  was aware of Faraday's work and even bought himself a Ruhmkorff Coil to replicate Faraday's experiments.He wasn't a glory hog, he wanted to replicate the test because it's good science.

Zantedeschi  held the position at Padua until 1853 when he finally resigned due to his diminishing eyesight. But he kept working privately. He published a 16 page paper in 1859, defending Gian Domenico Romagnosi. At the time Hans Christian Ørsted was falsely claiming to have discovered the magnetic effect of the electric current. Ørsteddid discover it in 1820 but Romagnosi discovered it in 1802. This wasn't just nationalism for Zantedeschi . This was his legacy. Anyone attacking the work of his predecessors was also inherently undermining his own claims. Zantedeschi died at Padua in 1873 at the age of 75.