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Luigi Ferdinando, Count de Marsigli
Italian geographer and naturalist, b. at Bologna 10 July, 1658; d. at Bologna 1 Nov., 1730. He was a member of an old patrician family and was educated in accordance with his rank. He supplemented his training by studying mathematics, anatomy, and natural history with the best teachers, and by personal observations. As a soldier he was sent by the Republic of Venice to Constantinople in 1679. There he investigated the condition of the Turkish forces, while at the same time he observed the surroundings of the Thracian Bosporus. Both of these matters were fully reported by him. In 1680, when the Turks threatened to invade Hungary, he offered his services to the Emperor Leopold. On 2 July, 1683 (the feast of the Visitation), he fell wounded and was taken prisoner. He suffered as a slave until he was ransomed on 25 March, 1684 (the feast of the Annunciation). His reflections on these two feast days show his great piety: on these days, he says, on which the august protectress of the faithful is particularly honoured, she obtained for him two graces: salutary punishment for his past faults and an end to his punishment. After the long war he was employed to arrange the boundaries between the Venetian Republic, Turkey, and the Empire. During the war of the Spanish Succession he was second in command under Count d'Arco at the fortress of Breisach, which surrendered in 1703. Count d'Arco was beheaded because he was found guilty of capitulating before it was necessary, while Marsigli was stripped of all honours and commissions, and his sword was broken over him. His appeals to the emperor were in vain. Public opinion, however, acquitted him later of the charge of neglect or ignorance.
In the midst of his work as a soldier he had always found enough leisure to devote to his favourite scientific pursuits. He drew plans, made astronomical observations, measured the speed and size of rivers, studied the products, the mines, the birds, fishes, and fossils of every land he visited, and also collected specimens of every kind, instruments, models, antiquities, etc. Finally he returned to Bologna and presented his entire collection to the Senate of Bologna in 1712. There he founded his "Institute of Sciences and Arts", which was formally opened in 1715. Six professors were put in charge of the different divisions of the institute. Later he established a printing-house furnished with the best types for Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic. This was put in charge of the Dominicans, and placed under the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1727 he added to his other collections East India material which he collected in England and Holland. A solemn procession of the institute he founded was ordered for every twenty-five years on the feast of the Annunciation. In 1715 he was named foreign associate of the Paris Academy of Sciences; he was also a member of the Royal Society of London, and of Montpellier.
His principal works are the following: "Osservazioni interne al Bosforo Tracio" (Rome, 1681); "Histoire physique de la mer", translated by Leclerc (Amsterdam, 1725); "Danubius Pannonico-mysicus, observationibus", etc. (7 vols., Hague, 1726); "L'Etat militaire de l'empire ottoman" (Amsterdam, 1732).
FONTENELLE, Eloges des Acad., II (Paris, 1825); QUINCY, Mémoires (Zurich, 1741).