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Pianezze, 1741 - Marostica, 1815
Astronomer and second Director of the Specola observatory in Padua
Vincenzo Chiminello was a professor of astronomy at the University and an active member of the Academy of Padua whose scientific activity started in 1779 with his apprenticeship at the Specola observatory as an assistant astronomer. He succeeded his uncle Giuseppe Toaldo - founder and first Director of the Observatory of Padua, the Specola - in 1797 in the difficult historical period following the fall of the Republic of Venice. After Toaldo's sudden death, Chiminello was faced with many difficulties at both economic and political level, which jeopardized the destiny of the Specola observatory and his position as an astronomer.
After completing his humanistic-literary studies at the College of Marostica, at the age of nineteen he decided to join priesthood, to complete the studies necessary for his new status, and to consolidate his cultural background, for which purposes he moved to the famous Seminary of Padua. He began to study mathematics and physics there and to extend his literary and philosophical studies. As he suffered from health problems at the time, he was advised to spend his efforts in the study of Law in order to begin his career in the Ecclesiastical Court. After obtaining a degree in civil and canon law, he was awarded the position of Custodian of the Archives in the Seminary, a post he filled for four years. It is worth noting that Chiminello had distinguished himself so much in his university studies that the Reformers of Studies, with a resolution dated 14 April 1765, had ordered the College of Law of the University to confer on him a doctoral degree "free of charge", i.e. without charging him any university fees, as we would say in our days.
After recovering his health, Chiminello turned his attention to the study of what had been his favorite subjects since the early years at the Seminary, i.e. mathematics and physics. The famous geographer and astronomer Ricci-Zannoni trained him in astronomical observations and in the use of instruments. When the new Specola observatory was supplied with a large mural quadrant by Ramsden in 1779, the first important instrument at the facility, the Reformers of Studies appointed Chiminello as assistant astronomer to Abbot Toaldo, who was the professor of astronomy and director of the observatory.
Chiminello's contributions to the study of meteorology were so significant that he deserved prestigious awards. In 1779, he was awarded the prize of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Siena, of which he was a member, for his memoir on the secular increase in rainfall, published in Volume VI of the Memoirs of the Academy; in 1783 he and his uncle received the award of the Theodoro-Palatine Academy of Manheim, of which he was also a member, for his memoir on the hygrometer, published in 1785 in the "Giornale Enciclopedico" journal of Vicenza, where he described the construction of a hygrometer he had invented.
An exemplary work is the discovery of the atmospheric flow and backflow, in which he was engaged for sixteen months with daily observations of the barometer at every hour of the day and night (10,080 measurements), which eventually lead him to attribute the phenomenon to the heat of the sun mainly. Chiminello formulated a new hypothesis to support the drop of the barometer in rainy weather starting from an experience made by Leibniz, which Toaldo had defended against De-Luc. The astronomer had compared numerous observations made in Brest and in Chioggia to show that the tide was greater at full moon than at new moon. These and other meteorological researches suggest that Chiminello was constantly trying to demonstrate and confirm the theory of the lunar points, which had been exposed some years earlier in the Saggio meteorologico (a meteorological essay) by his famous and admired uncle Giuseppe Toaldo.
In the astronomical field, Chiminello was an assiduous, precise and accurate observer: he invented and simplified numerous analytical methods to calculate the positions of the stars and the planets, thus giving his contribution to the astronomical science of the time. His work titled Memoria sulla doppia obliquità dell'Eclittica dall'estate all'inverno, published in the Opuscoli scientifici of Milan is definitely worth a mention.
The year 1797 - the year in which Toaldo died - marked the fall of the Republic of Venice and the beginning of the political and war events that affected Europe as a whole in that period. The immediate result was a state of unprecedented economic degradation and administrative confusion in the territory of Veneto. Padua experienced a time which is known as "eight alternations" during which the government of the city was alternately held by the French and the Austrians in rounds of a few months or years. Following the disruption of the activities at the Padua Academy, of which he was a retired member, and the reduced number of students at the university, Chiminello found himself without an academic pension, lacking the proceeds of his lessons and with the miserable salary of an assistant astronomer. The Austrian government had, in fact, ignored the decree of the municipal government of Padua by which he had been assigned a professor's salary since 1798. In addition to this, the loss of his uncle had left him alone to make up for all the activities of the Specola observatory.
Chiminello lived some very hard years, left without any help and in poor health. He found himself forced to spend almost all of his private fortune for his livelihood and to prevent a gloomy destiny for the astronomical observatory. After Toaldo's death, he had become the de facto professor of astronomy and the director of the observatory, these positions being officially conferred on him in 1806 only, while for the academic year 1806-1807 he was appointed Director of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics.
During these harsh years, Chiminello continued to publish in the Memorie della Società Italiana delle Scienze (lit. Memoirs of the Italian Society of Sciences) of Modena and he managed to continue the publication of the famous and appreciated Giornale astro-meteorologico journal founded by Toaldo in 1773. Still in those years, Chiminello published, for educational purposes, an updated edition of the Compendium of Astronomy by the French astronomer Lalande concerning topics such as astronomy, physics, church history and others, of which there are unpublished manuscript notes.
After the first years of hardship following 1797, Chiminello's economic resources were swelled by a modest, yet sufficient salary allocation and, in 1807, he was asked to train Francesco Bertirossi-Busatta (1775-1826), a young student from his home town Marostica.