Journal of the European Optical Society - Rapid publications, Vol 5 (2010)

On the history of the Secchi disc

M. R. Wernand

Abstract


The first records on regular, tabulated, measurements of transparency of natural waters are those by the German naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso during the Russian ‘Rurik’ Expedition 1815-1818 under the command of Otto von Kotzebue. A standardized method to determine the water clarity (transparency) was adopted at the end of the nineteenth century. This method (lowering a white painted disc into the water until it disappeared out of sight) was described by Pietro Angelo Secchi in Il Nuovo Cimento and was published in 1865. The Austrian scientist Josef Roman Lorenz von Liburnau, experimenting with submersible objects, like white discs, in the Gulf of Quarnero (Croatia) in the eighteen-fifties, well before Secchi started his investigations, questioned the naming of the white disc. However, the experiments performed by Secchi and Cialdi in 1864, on such an intensive scale, where never performed before. At the beginning of the twentieths century this method, water transparency observations by means of a 30 centimetres’ white disc, was named the Secchi-disc method.

© The Authors. All rights reserved. [DOI: 10.2971/jeos.2010.10013s]

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