MARSILI, Luigi Ferdinando
Count Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1658-1730) was a military officer and naturalist, considered as the founder of modern oceanography. He studied mathematics, astronomy and natural history. He later travelled to the Ottoman Empire and collected material both on military issues and on natural history. In December 1677, was entrusted with a mission on behalf of the Republic of Venice, he moved to Istanbul and stayed in that city until the beginning of 1680. During that period, he made measurements at the Bosporus and gathered information on the organization of the Ottoman army.
During the Ottoman-Habsburg War of the late 17th century, Marsigli was in the service of emperor Leopold. He was taken captive by the Tatars, was probably sold as a slave to Bosnian soldiers during the siege of Vienna (1683) and was set free in 1684. He returned to Leopold's army and served as military engineer. After the treaty of Karlowitz (1699) he participated in the demarcation and mapping of the Habsurg - Ottoman - Venetian border. During his stay in Hungary, which lasted approximately twenty years, Marsigli collected scientific data as well as antiquities. He also studied the river Danube by making measurements and observations. He published the material from this research in a six-volume work complete with an Atlas, titled “Danubius Pannonico-Mysicus” between 1726 and 1744. This was the first thorough study on the Danube and its ecosystems.
In the following years, Marsigli took part in several military conflicts between European countries. When he retired, he travelled to Switzerland and France, mainly in the area of Marseille, and studied the waters of the region. Wherever he was, Marsigli conducted scientific research by making drawings, astronomical observations, studying the flow of the rivers, local products, minerals, birds, fish and collecting tools, instruments and antiquities. In 1712 he returned to Bologna, and in 1715 he founded an Institute for Art and Research, as well as a publishing house which printed books in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. He also collected material on East India and was elected a fellow of the Academy of Sciences of Paris and the Royal Academy of London.
Of his approximately twenty scholarly works, especially interesting are also “L'État militaire de l'empire ottoman” (1732), on the organization of the Ottoman army, an edition with excellent illustrations showing weapons, costumes, means of transportation, drawings of battles etc., and the present work, which concentrates Marsigli's measurements and research on the movements and quality of the waters of the Bosporus and adjacent seas, the winds, the currents, the water level and the marine life of the area.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou