Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Astronomer, mathematician, b. at Florence, Italy, 20 March, 1816; d. at Frederick, Maryland, 17 Jan., 1890. He entered the Society of Jesus at Rome on 30 Oct., 1836, and studied at the Roman College where he followed the courses of Father Caraffa, the distinguished professor of mathematics; endowed with mathematical ability, supplemented by keen sight and skill as a draughtsman, he was appointed assistant to Father De Vico, director of the Roman Observatory. He was ordained in 1844, and filled the chair of higher mathematics at the Roman College, when the Revolution of 1848 caused his precipitate flight from Rome ; coming to America he lived at Georgetown College, except for a few years, until 1869. He was stationed at Woodstock, Maryland, at the opening of the scholasticate, and remained there until 1884. On account of failing health, he was transferred in 1885 to the novitiate, Frederick, Maryland, where paralysis terminated his career. In astronomy, his principal work is his "Catalogue of Star-Colors", published in his "Memoirs of the Roman College ", 1845 and 1847. The second memoir includes the first, and forms the entire catalogue, except the twelve celestial charts that accompanied the first. The Revolution broke out at Rome when the second memoir was in the printer's hands, and prevented the completion of the work. The colour catalogue is important for two reasons: it is the first general review of the heavens for star-colours, embodying the entire B. A. C. catalogue, from the North Pole to 30 degrees south of the Equator; then, as the observations are now about seventy years old (having been made from 1844 to 1846), the "Catalogue" will be invaluable for deciding the question whether there are stars variable in colour. For these reasons it has been republished, with notes, at the Vatican Observatory , as No. III Publications, 1911. It is remarkable how few are the errors of identification, in view of the then existing difficulties, and how closely Sestini's general scale of colours agrees with that of the Potsdam catalogue.

At Georgetown Observatory, in 1850, Sestini made a series of sunspot drawings, which were engraved and published (44 plates) as "Appendix A" of the Naval Observatory volume for 1847, printed in 1853. His last scientific work as an astronomer was the observation of the total eclipse of 29 July, 1878, at Denver, Colorado . A sketch of the corona as it appeared to him was published in the "Catholic Quarterly Review". From his arrival at Georgetown (1848) until his retirement from Woodstock (1884) he had been almost constantly engaged in teaching mathematics to the Jesuit scholastics, and he published a series of textbooks on algebra, geometry and trigonometry, analytical geometry, infinitesimal analysis. These were works of sterling merit, but they never became popular with students or teachers; their severe analytic method was repellent to practical American taste; he had no sympathy with commercial mathematics, and furthermore the make-up of the books was not as attractive as the ordinary high-school and college textbooks. He wrote treatises on natural science for the use of his pupils; some of these were lithographed and others were privately printed at Woodstock: "Theoretical Mechanics" in 1873; "Animal Physics " in 1874; "Principles of Cosmography" in 1878. He founded the American "Messenger of the Sacred Heart" in 1866, and retained editorial control of it until 1885; during these years he was also head director of the Apostleship of Prayer in the United States. He was an indefatigable worker and had many difficulties to contend with in launching and sustaining the "Messenger", and in directing the League of the Sacred Heart, but he was supported in this labour of love by his cheerful disposition and ardent zeal for the glory of God. It was pleasantly said of him that he had two passions ---one for pure mathematics, and the other for the pure Catholic religion.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:32--5:8
32 Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other as ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6
1 How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:10-17
10 One Sabbath day he was teaching in one of the synagogues,11 ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 24th, 2016 Image

St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24: Claretian archbishop and founder. Anthony was ... Read More