Born Parma, (Italy), 1596
Died Rome, (Italy), 1670
Nicollo Zucchi taught mathematics at the Jesuit Roman College, did impressive research in optics, and was a well-known telescope maker. Joseph de Lalande speaks with great admiration of his contributions to the reflecting telescope. He designed an apparatus using a lens to observe the image focused by a concave mirror, thus providing an early version of the reflecting telescope. From his description of this apparatus in his Optica, other scientists such as Isaac Newton were able to make necessary improvements on this instrument. Using his reflecting telescope, Zucchi made a careful study of the spots on Mars (which had already been discovered), and from this data Jacques Cassini was able to discover the rotation rate of Mars.
Zucchi was held in such great esteem that he was sent as a papal legate to the court of Emperor Ferdinand II of Austria, where he met Johannes Kepler . One of the most touching of Kepler’s letters was the dedication of his last book, The Dream (1634), which contains a long letter of gratitude to Jesuits Paul Guldin and Zucchi, who brought Kepler a telescope during his exile:
To the very reverend Father Paul Guldin, priest of the Society of Jesus, venerable and learned man, beloved patron. There is hardly anyone at this time with whom I would rather discuss matters of astronomy than with you. Father Zucchi could not have entrusted this most remarkable gift - I speak of the telescope - to anyone whose effort in this connection pleases me more than yours.
A lunar crater is named to honor Zucchi: It is 64 km in diameter and is located at 61°.4 south latitude and 309°.7 east longitude.