When Luigi de la Cerda
, duke of Medinacoeli, was viceroy, at the royal palace there was some meetings, called Academy, aimed to read and comment some pamphlets. Federico Pappacorda, a Neapolitan cavalier and intellectual assayer, along with Nicolò Caravita
proposed to the viceroy the institution of an Academy. The Royal Academy, better known as the Palatine Academy, was established in March 20, 1698. The members could discuss about physics, astronomy, geography and history, showing all that the ancients had ignored or written abstrusely
In 1735 Charles of Bourbon
became King of Naples and Sicily giving back to the Southern Italy the independence after more than two centuries of foreign domination. He initiated a long period of political rebirth and economic upturn. One of his first acts was the approval of the University reform plan suggested by Celestino Galiani. This reform included the reorganization and the redistribution of chairs among the professors and ratified students and teachers new rights and duties. It was also established the chair of Astronomy and Navigation
in place of Ethics and Politics one. For the first time in the Southern Italy, Astronomy was included in a graduate program. Astronomical and nautical sector were linked together in name of the old and practical connections between sky observations and orientation practices at sea.
The first professor of the chair, later called Astronomy and Calendars
, was the mathematician Pietro Di Martino
. Not being able to have an Observatory, as neither his successors Felice Sabatelli
and Ferdinando Messia de Prado
, he had to stick to an essentially theoretical teaching.
The absence of an astronomical observatory was a setback for a city that aspired to being a European capital. London, Paris and Berlin boasted a long tradition of scientific studies, institutions such as Observatories and Botanical Gardens, as well as scientific academies, such as the Royal Society
of London and the Académie des Sciences
in Paris. The cities of central and northern Italy - Bologna, Padua, Pisa, Florence and Rome - were also centers of astronomical and botanical studies; in the mid-eighteenth century, Naples had not yet an astronomical observatory, a botanical garden, and an academy of sciences. The baron von zack
in his correspondance wrote: Jamais l'Astronomie pratique n'avait été cultivée avec suite et avec succèsè à Naples. Sans doute, il y avait des astronomes, et encore plus d'astrologues, mais il n'y avait ni observatoire ni observations
, and quoting Carlo Celano
says: ...la ville de Naples était sous la domination du bélier ...Naples était encore en 1758 (sur certains points) sous la domination de l'ignorance
This does not mean that in Naples there wasn't astronomers and observations: there were some private observatories, many of them related to the various colleges.
Around the middle of the eighteenth century existed in the city the Observatory of the Royl College of Piarists at San Carlo alle Mortelle, directed by Nicola Maria Carcani
, and the private laboratories of Lord Acton
and prince Ferdinando Vincenzo Spinelli of Tarsia. Also the College of Jesuits boasted a rich collection of physical and astronomical instrumentation. In this context, Di Martino and Sabatelli insisted on the foundation of an Observatory, without success. The project found its first implementation with Giuseppe Cassella
. Student of Sabatelli, Cassella studied astronomy at Padua with the abbot Giuseppe Toaldo
He was appointed professor of mathematics at the Seminary of Padua and, in 1786, of astronomy at the Royal Naval Academy of Neaples. The ministry of the Navy, John Acton, a great lover of astronomy, sponsored at the Court the cause of the foundation of an Observatory, together with the Great Chamberlain, the Marquis Del Vasto. In 1791 the king Ferdinando IV
decreed finally the establishment of the Observatory, ...on the example of Bologna and Pisa and Padua and Milan and other Italian cities.
After a first recognition, it was chosen as the site the northeastern corner of the building of the University, now the Archaeological Museum. According to the intentions of the king the palace would have become the new Royal Museum including the Academy of Sciences Letters and Fine-Arts. The project was entrusted to the Roman architect Pompeo Schiantarelli
. The work was undertaken, but never completed. Just the beautiful 27.40 meters long sundial was realized in the great hall. It has a brass strip wedged between marble panels decorated with the zodiacal images, perhaps painted byJohann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein
When Giuseppe Bonaparte
become king of Naples in 1806, the political landscape changed, and Cassella renewed its instances. we have astronomer and some instruments, few other equipments are in the process of buying: the observatory building has been finded
. By decree of 29 January 1807 the new king granted the use of the Monastery of San Gaudioso as Observatory. It was positioned on the hill of Sant'Agnello, the acropolis of the Greek Neapolis. The Monastery was already damaged in 1799 because of he fire started by the populace, which believed that inside there were the supporters of the French republican troops.
Because of a shortage of instruments, Cassella observed assiduously at the lord Acton observatory. In the next few years the French government was particularly sensitive to the scientific and cultural progress. In 1807 the King founded also the Botanical Garden.
In 1809 Joachim Murat
succeeded Joseph Bonaparte on the throne on Naples. He believed of the State's duty to provide education and research incentives through an exact match between the academies and the society. In 1812 Murat established the Zoological Museum and approved a new building for the Astronomical Observatory on the Capodimonte hill.